Socorro mayor removes barriers to quarantine hotel after state steps in

Coronavirus New Mexico

SOCORRO, N.M. (KRQE) – A New Mexico mayor who blocked people with COVID-19 from quarantining at a hotel in his city is now changing course after the state stepped in. The City of Socorro held an emergency city council meeting Thursday over the issue, but ten minutes before it started, the mayor got a letter from the state.

The barricades are down at the Days Inn in Socorro. “Our voice was heard,” former Alamo Navajo tribal leader Hector Guerro said.

This comes after the mayor of Socorro blocked off the hotel Monday morning, which he said was being set up as a quarantine location for members of the Navajo Nation without his knowledge. He has opened it back up after the Department of Health contacted the city this afternoon. “I am glad they were able to help us in our favor,” Guerro said.

In a letter to Mayor Ravi Bhasker and city councilors, the DOH said they are in full support of the Navajo Nation’s efforts and implementing the plan, something Bhasker was not happy about in Thursday’s city council meeting. “I am very disappointed in them,” Bhasker said. “I am very disheartened because the resources that we have if something goes wrong out there, I am totally lacking.”

While the DOH said it believes the shelter can operate with no significant risk to the community, some city council members questioned the safety protocols in place. Bhasker said earlier this week that it is a voluntary program, raising concerns that sick people could leave when they want and infect others. “How things are going to be controlled… I don’t think anyone has those answers,” City Councilor Peter Romero said.

Bhasker said he still doesn’t know anything about the plans and said he doesn’t feel supported by the state. “The Department of Health frankly doesn’t care,” Bhasker said. “They have an equation that states that if you quarantine, the numbers will go down, and they just firmly believe in that, and they are going to use our city to do that.”

Meanwhile, Guerro, who believed the mayor’s actions were discriminatory, said he is happy the state stepped in. “This is a huge win for us just because this allows my people to heal,” Guerro said. “This allows my people to get better so they can go home to their families.”

KRQE News 13 reached out to the Navajo Nation for comment but we did not hear back. Bhasker said he is having a meeting with those involved on Friday.

Bhasker said that the governor’s staff, Senator Martin Heinrich’s staff, and Representative Xochitl Torres Small all reached out to him about the issue.

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