Governor adds new “Gating” Criteria before Businesses will be allowed to Reopen in New Mexico
New Mexico has surpassed all of the “gating” criteria put into place by State and National Standards, with promise of safely reopening business and life in general, using Phased in Stages, due to the pandemic. New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham announced, instead of giving the go ahead to safely move into Phase Two, the state would add a new “gating” criterion before reopening, during her live address last Thursday, Each of the other data points used to gauge the state’s efforts to combat the coronavirus pandemic were well below target. (See insert below). The Covid case spread rate in New Mexico stands at 0.75, much below the state’s 1.05 or less target, even with record numbers of out of state visitors flooding the state. Case spread means the rate of how many people become infected when coming in contact with an infected person. The numbers show good news, but Dr. David Scrase, Cabinet Secretary of the Human Services Department, said during the live press report, the work on our “gating” criteria has to continue until there is a vaccine. This might mean the state of New Mexico could be forced to remain in Phase One, no mater what “gating” criteria is met, for however long it takes to have a vaccine in place. This would not be good news to our already suffering economy.
The businesses in New Mexico are expressing surprise and disappointment about this tactic of constantly “moving the goal posts”. Each of these small businesses take this virus and the safety of their employees and customers extremely serious. They have worked hard, with great expense, to follow and comply with the Safe Practices guidelines set by the state. In return, they were promised to be able to safely reopen. It is another blow to the economic devastation of the state’s business community, which may in fact force even more businesses to permanently close their doors. At this point an estimated 4 out of 10 jobs will never return in New Mexico. More than 30% and possibly up to 40% of our businesses will close their doors forever. Economic recovery of any type may take up to 10 years.
Presently, unemployment has been exhausted for many of New Mexican claimants, the eviction moratorium has been lifted, (residents and businesses alike now face eviction when unable to pay rent or back pay rent) and jobs are still widely unavailable for New Mexicans. I hear people say, if you want a job they are out there, I disagree. Tourism, hospitality, visitor centers, chambers of commerce, entertainment, events and all the vendors they include and employ, art shows, arts and crafts fairs, museums, family centers, recreation facilities, sports venues, theaters, music venues, bars and wineries, aquariums, malls, etc. etc….. all of these employ hundreds of thousands of people in New Mexico, jobs that only a few months ago were thriving, are not available. There is no way the businesses allowed to be open at this time, could even begin to employ all of the people who are out of work. Those businesses allowed to operate can only operate at 25% to 50% capacity. They can’t even hire back their full staff, nor are they making enough money to continue to keep their doors open much longer. For restaurants, only being allowed outdoor dining, which limits them to smaller percentages of the allowed percentage, is not a formula for profit. Business plans are not written to earn a profit at 25 to 50% capacity. (Try taking that business plan to a bank) It takes at least 80% to just break even, 100% for hope of any profit. State wide, jobs and businesses are gone.
One more hardship placed upon our businesses last week is the order to report, to OSHA, if one of their employees tests COVID positive, within 4 hours of notice or face fines from $13,000 to $130,000. Although this “Rapid Response” requirement was put into place with the goal of protecting the employees and customers, the order includes employees who are working remotely from home. The business will be named on a website, without mentioning if the positive case occurred in the workplace or the employee has been working remotely. Both will treated equally. There will not be updates to the website for the business to be removed when the employee is negative. New Mexico is the only state in the US to have added this requirement. OSHA, whose realm of authority is occupational injuries and workplace safety, has been ordered to include COVID cases, a communicable disease. The lines are indeed being changed, even for many previously solid structured agencies.
Gating Criteria Being Met in New Mexico with the exception of #2 which was added last Thursday, keeping New Mexico in Phase One since March 11, 2020 5 months and counting.