BY CARLA J. SONNTAG / PRESIDENT AND FOUNDER, NEW MEXICO BUSINESS COALITION
Friday, June 12th, 2020 at 12:02am as featured in the Albuquerque Journal
The governor’s early response to the coronavirus slowed the spread and saved lives, thankfully leading to a much lower-than-anticipated mortality rate. We’ve learned the virus can be effectively managed to minimize loss of life without jeopardizing people’s livelihood, and that’s exactly what is desired by most New Mexicans.
To better understand New Mexicans’ opinions, New Mexico Business Coalition (NMBC) conducted an open survey netting over 1,100 responses. The results:
⋄ 84% were dissatisfied with New Mexico’s response to handling the shutdown;
⋄ 73% were dissatisfied with the unemployment response;
⋄ 85% said “The governor’s leadership and/or decisions do not support what is best for all New Mexicans.”
Why the dissatisfaction?
The governor’s orders, based on ever-changing science, have hurt minorities, the poor and business operations. They have led to a lack of faith in requirements on issues such as:
1) Mandatory face coverings based on conflicting data. Many users are frequently touching their face to adjust the mask, thus creating greater risk of infection.
2) Saying that statewide large-scale testing is necessary before the economy can be fully functional is ridiculous. We know that a test today does not guarantee an infection-free tomorrow.
3) Widespread availability of immunizations could take 18-24 months. If stay-at-home instructions and limited school and business operations continue that long, how will our state recover?
We do not downplay the seriousness of the virus and offer our sincere condolences to anyone who has lost a loved one. Around the world, however, we see government leaders taking a different approach from New Mexico:
South Dakota’s Gov. Kristi Noem never instituted closures or lockdown requirements. Instead, she provided recommended safety measures and then trusted her people “to do the right thing.” That state has among the nation’s lowest COVID-19 involvement and a death rate of positive cases that is only a fraction of New Mexico’s with a much higher recovery rate.
Germany’s journalist Patricia Riekel said the lockdown was a mistake and that she favored the Swedish way of only providing safety recommendations. Riekel added, “We have become a people of compliers and snitches.”
New Mexico is doubling down on the snitch business. The governor encourages the public and employees to turn in anyone believed to be in violation of her rules. Hot lines have been set up while turning New Mexicans against each other. This untrusting scenario, which started with cellphone tracking, created mutual wariness. It is not what any of us love about our state and fellow New Mexicans.
A recent trip to Colorado illustrated a different attitude. Employees there were ecstatic about being back to work and wanted to help drive success. They were quick to help patrons and fellow employees understand how best to comply with new COVID rules, never looking for violations to turn someone in, only to help.
What a concept.
The stay-at-home instructions continue while the governor tells us we should support local businesses. How exactly is that supposed to happen?
Ten weeks after our economy was shut down, we still have no plan for recovery. Having four defined phases is not a plan, nor is telling business owners the night before they can open what that means. Unlike government, businesses depend on well-defined plans for operation and success.
To illustrate why this is a problem, many restaurants were unable to open when allowed because the notice did not provide sufficient time to stock food and re-staff. More lost opportunities for a state that can ill afford it.
New Mexicans are hard-working people who are proud to provide for their families while honoring and respecting others. To them, this is not an either-or proposition. We are responsible adults who put safety first. That is why NMBC believes the South Dakota model of trusting people to do the right thing is the best approach for New Mexico. It should be implemented immediately.
For full survey results, please visit our website at: nmbizcoalition.org.