ROSWELL, N.M. (KRQE) – State leaders are making stops in southern New Mexico, where COVID cases continue to climb, to get a better picture of the crisis there and what more can be done to fight the virus. Some people in these communities said they do not feel heard, and that state leaders need to learn the individual stories behind the COVID numbers.

Remote learning is no easy task. “I am a previous educator with a master’s degree and with all of these things, it has still been a struggle,” parent and Roswell school board president Hope Morales said.

Roswell doesn’t qualify to participate in a hybrid model of learning, since it is a red county based on COVID data. Hope said it isn’t working for some families and asked Lt. Gov. Howie Morales to come to town to hear first-hand from educators. “I think it was helpful for him to hear from elementary, middle, and high school principals about what distance learning looks like in Roswell,” Hope said.

The stop in Roswell was just one stop on the lieutenant governor’s ongoing tour of southern New Mexico that began a week ago. He heard from people and businesses in places like Deming, Columbus, and Sunland Park. “Being in-person has made a huge difference especially in communities that are far away from Santa Fe,” the lieutenant governor said.

He said these communities feel that communication from the state on public health orders and how to enforce them needs improvement, asking for there to be a contact person for the state to answer questions that local municipalities and districts may have. “Unfortunately, we haven’t had the opportunity to have the dialogue we wanted,” the lieutenant governor said. “We are going to provide better communication and do all we can to make sure we are available.”

He said the local municipalities are also asking for more collaboration on enforcement with state police, saying it is just a minority of people not complying and holding parties, driving up the numbers. “Many times there might be the assumption that because numbers are so high in these communities, that there is outright defiance or no adherence to the public orders,” the lieutenant governor said. “What I have seen in all the communities I have been to is that the majority of people are doing their best to comply.”

Hope said conversations like these make people all around the state feel included. “It has to include dialogue where people felt heard, and they are part of the team beyond the community,” Hope said. “We are part of the state team.”

The next stops on the lieutenant governor’s tour are Lea, Eddy, Curry, and Roosevelt counties. Thursday also marked a testing surge in southern New Mexico. The lieutenant governor said the municipalities are also concerned about how long it takes to get results which he said is five to six days on average. He said he is working with the Department of Health to improve the turnaround time.