This letter is in response to your recently amended “Emergency Public Health Order” whereby, among other pronouncements, restaurants would no longer be able to offer indoor dining. As I am sure that you are aware, these orders have not been well received by many citizens in the Southeast rural areas.
Public perception is a big part of the problem. It has not kept pace with the actual and potential consequences of the pandemic. The perception that it is all a “hoax” has been partially fueled by administration mis-steps. One of the most glaring is that of consistency and there are a few examples…It’s O.K. to protest without a mask or social distancing but not O.K. to attend a church service. It’s O.K. to shop at a “big box” store standing six feet from other patrons but not at a small business offering the same goods or services. It’s O.K. for the State Police to graduate officers in a ceremony with no masks or social distancing in evidence but not for a high school graduating class of 25 to hold a similar ceremony.
Current public policy fails again in many cases to pass the “common sense” test. The current order requires an individual to be “masked up” at all times outside the home. People in my community walk for exercise, not in groups, but solo. It flies in the face of common sense that masks should be required in this circumstance. The out of state travel “quarantine” requirement is another example. You do not realize from the ivory tower of Santa Fe how intimately linked are the economies of Southeast New Mexico and West Texas. This is evidenced not only with a large percentage of the workforce commuting daily across the border but also with respect to medical care. Lubbock and Midland, both in Texas, are usual destinations for our citizens looking for specialized medical care. Any quarantining associated with this travel is simply impractical.
Going back to the restaurant closures, it is now rumored that your office has developed a target or “hit” list picking out establishments that have come out publicly in opposition to the latest health order. At least one business in this community has had a visit from the Department of Health revoking a permit to serve food. There can be no other explanation than that this is utilizing the police power of the State for coercion. This is a business that keeps its premises whistling clean, with fully one half the tables missing and “social distancing” practices scrupulously followed. Mandating that these folks now have to close their dining room is just plain wrong.
Public health orders that are widely disparaged or outright ignored or those that turn normally law abiding folks into criminals will be ineffective achieving any progress mitigating the consequences of the C-19 pandemic. We challenge you to come to Southeast New Mexico, sit down with local leadership, and help us develop TOGETHER coherent policies that rely on communication and education rather than intimidation. Let’s set some broad guidelines based on best medical practices and then trust our citizens to do the “right thing”. Transportation is available for you and your staff if you are fearful of going the distance via automobile. Just let us know. It is long past time for a change of course.
Larry Scott, R-Hobbs, is a State Representative from District 62.