New Mexico’s college-athletes ask state to modify public health order

Local Sports

Read full letter below

NEW MEXICO (KRQE) – New Mexico’s college athletes are pleading with the governor to let them compete. They sent her a letter outlining the areas where they think they could work around the public health order safely. Athletes listed three areas they believe can be changed so that they can practice and compete safely like most other colleges around the U.S. right now.

New Mexico’s student-athletes hope this is a hail-Mary pass to the governor. “We want to play,” said New Mexico State University track and field student, Emily Hernandez. “We understand COVID-19 is serious.”

Athletes from NMSU, the University of New Mexico, Eastern, Western, and Highlands Universities joined forces to send a letter to Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham.

“We wanted to make sure our voices are being heard because we are the only state right now not allowing student-athletes to practice and compete as the same Division I levels of other states are,” said NMSU swimmer, Katherine Harston.

The letter outlines areas of the public health order they hope she reconsiders. The state currently mandates PCR tests, or nasal swab testing three times a week.

But teams would like to follow the NCAA protocol, which includes the option to also use POC testing, which is an antigen test with rapid results. This would allow universities to administer either test, which could be financially easier on the universities as well as give them flexibilities as to what kind of COVID tests they use.

“So instead of completely changing the recommendations that she’s put forth and mandated, we just want her to modify them so it’s easier for us to follow,” said Harston.

They also want the governor to increase the number of people that can be indoors to 75% instead of the current 25%, or five people max. Lastly, they don’t want the community’s COVID-19 rate to dictate if it’s safe to play.

They say their university’s rate is much lower compared to their county’s rate. Despite the state getting more and more coronavirus cases each day, this letter doesn’t omit the seriousness of the pandemic.

“It’s just frustrating but we hope our letter gets some up-rise, get noticed,” said Hernandez.

KRQE News 13 asked the governor’s office for an interview about the letter but they were unable to. Lt. Gov. Howie Morales told the Mesilla Valley News that they want students to play, but also want to make sure the number of coronavirus cases go down and have better control of the virus beforehand.

Western New Mexico University said in part they’ve gone 60 days without a positive case of COVID-19 in their athletics program:

Along with adhering to the university’s stringent protocols and operating in accordance with the NCAA’s guidelines, we in Mustang Athletics have developed a culture of care and diligence that has successfully prevented the virus from spreading among our student-athletes and staff.”

WNMU Mustang Director of Athletics Scott Noble

Matt Billings, the athletic director of Eastern New Mexico University said in part:

We think it is important that our student-athletes always have a voice and are heard when it relates to their student-athlete experience. This is a perfect example of that scenario and I commend them for speaking up on a subject that affects them directly. The united voice that has been developed between the universities across the state speaks volumes for how important of times we are in right now.” 

Read the full student-athlete letter to governor:

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