Sarah Smith (Photo: Courtesy)
The governor’s extended lockdown policies and extreme mandates are harming New Mexicans. The choice to continue the extended lockdown is a privileged position. The poor are the ones who are harmed the most by these policies: they are less likely to be able to work from home, they don’t have the luxury of staying home to oversee online schooling, and they will continue to struggle to find jobs in the wake of hundreds of NM business failures. Over 120,000 New Mexicans are now on unemployment, yet the state’s unemployment fund has already been exhausted such that funds are being borrowed from the federal government.
Economic health is closely linked to mental health. New Mexico was leading the nation in suicides before the pandemic, and it is even worse now. Suicide rates are up to 30% higher in unemployed people, and NM now has one of the highest unemployment rates in the country. In August 2020, NM’s unemployment rate was 11.3% which is 250% higher than in August 2019. Farmington recently reported a 175% increase in suicides, and over 30% of these suicides were children.
The governor’s zero-tolerance mask mandates are excessive. She is actively encouraging discrimination against people who have health conditions which prevent mask wearing. She is punishing businesses who don’t enforce her mandates with fines of up to $5,000/day. She is requiring children down to age 3 to wear masks all day at schools and childcare centers. She is requiring masks when we are out in the open air even when far away from others. She has mandated masks during exercise, which is dangerous and specifically recommended against by the World Health Organization.
NM children are isolated and depressed. Online schooling is a massive failure. It is well-established that COVID-19 generally produces mild symptoms in kids; it is less severe and fatal for children than influenza. There has not been a single COVID-19 death of a person under 20 years of age in New Mexico. The governor needs to fully reopen our schools. High-risk teachers could have the option to continue teaching online, as there are plenty of people who would not choose to send their kids back to school yet. Let the rest of the kids return to school full-time, just as they are doing in many other states and across Europe.
The governor’s policies are continuing to escalate. On Aug. 6, the governor said that social distancing, masks and avoiding large groups are the right public health path “forever, irrespective of COVID.” On Aug. 13, the governor stated that COVID-19 vaccines will be “mandatory” for educators, healthcare workers, nursing home residents, childcare workers, and first-responders. NM Statute 12-10a-13 already allows the state to mandate vaccination during times of emergency, and people who refuse vaccination may be forced to be “isolated” or “quarantined.”
On Sept. 10, the governor said that bars, theaters, and concerts won’t be able to resume “until there is a vaccine.” On Sept. 24, she called on New Mexicans to wear masks to control influenza. On Oct. 1, she asked New Mexicans to limit their daily outside-the-home activities to no more than 3-5 per day.
There needs to be a balance between public health policies aimed at reducing the spread of COVID19 and policies which allow New Mexicans to live their lives, earn their livelihoods, and have hope for their future. Our votes in the next election may be the most important votes of our lifetimes. Our votes will determine whether the governor is allowed to continue unchecked over the remaining two years of her term.
Sarah Smith has been working in the natural healthcare field for seven years and is a former NASA aerospace engineer and scientist.
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