Las Cruces mayor urges state to allow some indoor dining in the red level

Coronavirus New Mexico

LAS CRUCES, N.M. (KRQE) – The mayor of Las Cruces is urging the state to help more businesses by making changes to the red to turquoise framework. He’s proposing the state loosen restrictions for some counties, but the state isn’t having it.

Ken Miyagishima, the mayor of Las Cruces, sent a letter to the governor to allow red-tiered counties to have some form of indoor dining. As of March 7, there are four counties at the red level, including Doña Ana. 

Miyagishima said businesses, especially restaurants, have been struggling to stay afloat during the pandemic. He believes they will continue to struggle and will lose out on business with people driving to nearby Texas where there are looser restrictions. To fight the potential loss of business, he is proposing letting restaurants in red counties open their dining rooms at 25% capacity. That’s if the county can get their numbers down to an average of 100 daily positive cases or less in a week. 

“Right now, we’ve probably been averaging 40 to 50 cases a day, COVID cases, and I had asked if it could be less than 100 – 100 or less – if that could still be an opportunity to open,” said Miyagishima. He also proposes opening dining rooms to customers who can prove they’ve had at least one dose of the COVID vaccine.

Nora Meyers Sackett, the Press Secretary with the governor’s office, sent KRQE this emailed statement below responding to the mayor’s proposal: 

“In response to the mayor’s “proposal”: The first and most important point would be that there is already a very straightforward way for Dona Ana County to get back into the Yellow Level, which is to slow the spread of COVID-19. Twenty-nine counties in the state, including most of the counties in southern New Mexico, have achieved this as of last week, and Dona Ana County has already shown it is more than capable of slowing the spread and advancing through the risk categories that will permit more commercial and day-to-day activities. 

The red-yellow-green framework is not in place for the fun of it, and is not something the state operates lightly; it is a tool to assign local epidemiological risk based on the incidence and spread of the virus that corresponds to a level of commercial and day-to-day activity that can more safely occur when the spread is reduced. In short, it is in place to keep New Mexicans safe, and to give each county the same opportunity to advance when local virus risk is reduced, and while we all wish the pandemic were over, it is not, and we hope the mayor understands the importance of continuing to drive down virus risk over the course of the spring as we continue to vaccinate and move ever closer to ending the pandemic.

The state is not going to enact special exemptions upon the request of local officials that would be in direct conflict with public health best practices and the data framework all other counties in the state are operating under. That said, the state would ask the mayor the following questions of his proposal, which if he has considered well he should be able to answer for you and your readers: (1) Which epidemiologists or public health professionals did he consult in modeling his proposals, and what were their takeaways with regard to their merit on a public health basis and on the prospective public health impact on his constituency (2) what would be the mayor’s plan for surveillance testing to ensure asymptomatic transmission is not occurring, (3) what would be the mayor’s plan for contact tracing to ensure transmission does not increase, and (4) what would be the mayor’s enforcement plans with regard to the differing levels of permissiveness he outlines for food and drink establishments.”

Nora Meyers Sackett, Press Secretary, Office of the Governor

The state’s website shows Doña Ana County has the third-highest test positivity rate in the state at 6.77%. To move to the yellow, which allows limited indoor dining, counties need to be at 5% or below. 

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