The state Economic Recovery Council, a group formed to advise the governor on the recovery of New Mexico’s economy in the wake of the unprecedented public health emergency caused by COVID-19, voted unanimously this week to endorse a preliminary plan for reopening the New Mexico economy, starting with a preparation phase that begins Friday, May 1.
The council is composed of 15 business and labor leaders representing a variety of industries from around the state. It is chaired by Christina Campos, administrator of the Guadalupe County Hospital in Santa Rosa, and Brian Moore, co-owner of the Ranch Market in Clayton.
The preparation phase that begins Friday extends the stay-at-home instruction to all individuals through May 15; however, it also includes certain modifications, including the reopening of curbside and delivery operations for non-essential retailers, outdoor recreational opportunities including golf courses and day use at some state parks, firearm sales by appointment, veterinary and pet services and other first steps.
Later phases would gradually ease restrictions further (see attached slides for more detail) but are dependent on positive trends in COVID-19 illness, medical system capacity, increased testing, adequate contact tracing and other factors.
“We think this first step will provide a sorely needed morale boost to people across the state,” Moore said. “It will also give businesses their first taste of recovery and help them put procedures in place in order to provide services in a way that is safe for their employees and their customers.”
The governor and state health officials say the preparation phase will serve as a test of how well New Mexicans adjust to the realities of living in a pandemic and that a wider reopening depends on every New Mexican behaving differently. Spikes in new cases that threaten to overwhelm health care systems could force the administration to reimpose tighter restrictions.
Part of the plan provides guidance to employers generally, and to retailers specifically, on how they can prepare to operate in a safe manner. The governor and state health officials urged employers to review the guidance and to begin procuring personal protective equipment (PPE) for employees and making necessary adjustments to their physical layout and business practices in order to prepare for phase one of the anticipated reopening.
“Reopening our state gradually is sensible. I own two small businesses myself, and so I know how hard this is on people,” said Campos. “But as a hospital administrator, I also know how precarious things are for our health care workers. We absolutely have to move forward in a safe, responsible way.”
The council expects to receive recommendations next week on COVID-safe practices specific to different industries. Those recommendations are being developed by subcommittees made up of Cabinet secretaries and representatives from a variety of industries.