ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Concerns about the ongoing coronavirus pandemic have forced officials to cancel this year’s New Mexico State Fair, making it the latest casualty Friday in a string of other big-ticket events that have been indefinitely postponed or scrapped altogether.
Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham raised concerns Thursday about a recent uptick in COVID-19 infections in the state, indicating that it would likely be a no-go for funnel cakes, turkey legs and the rest of the pageantry that makes up the annual September spectacle.
Dan Mourning, the fair’s general manager, confirmed in a video message released Friday that the 11-day show wouldn’t happen.
He called it a difficult decision, saying no one could have imaged just months ago how everyday life would change because of the virus. He said the safety of staff, vendors and the community was being put above all else.
“Like everything during the last few months, these decisions are complex,” he said, outlining the vast network of vendors, sponsors, livestock contractors, entertainers, amusement ride operators, rodeo athletes and other competitors who make the fair what it is.
Other large events including the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, the Gathering of Nations Powwow and Santa Fe’s popular summer art markets also have been canceled because of the pandemic and resulting public health orders that prohibit gatherings and call for people to stay at home.
While New Mexico’s stay-at-home order remains in place, Lujan Grisham’s administration has allowed for some businesses to reopen at limited capacities. But the governor warned this week that further openings will depend on whether people adhere to the public safety guidelines issued by state health officials and if the rate of spread comes back down.
The closures and cancellations have resulted in an untold loss in economic activity in New Mexico, with some small business owners being forced to permanently shut their doors, the grinding to a halt of the tourism industry and local governments losing out on tax revenues.
Steve Pearce, chairman of the Republican Party of New Mexico, is among those who have been critical of the governor’s reopening plan.
“Her decisions remain inequitable, illogical and will endanger the future of even more businesses and livelihoods,” he said Friday. “Her mass-gathering policies have now ruined our tourism industry and the fate of other industries, like wine, hangs in the balance. Each day more small businesses shut down.”
The governor on Thursday acknowledged that small businesses “have struggled in ways we can’t even begin to comprehend,” but that her decisions are rooted in trying to minimize spread.
“This is going to require more sacrifice,” she said.
Positive COVID-19 tests in New Mexico topped 11,000 on Thursday, as state health officials reported an additional 207 cases.
For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms such as fever and cough. But for some — especially older adults and people with existing health problems — it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.