Southeast New Mexico was singled out again during Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham’s press conference Thursday afternoon. Unfortunately, it wasn’t to thank us for being responsible for around 40% of the state’s annual budget.
“We’ve got to do better in Southeast New Mexico,” said the Governor, who again chastised us for reportedly not wearing masks enough and for travelling too much. She mentioned our recent high number of positive COVID-19 cases per 100,000 and also said Eddy and Lea counties accounted for about 30 percent of the state’s recent “rapid responses.” Rapid responses are conducted at businesses where an employee or employees test positive for COVID-19.
We have had an increase in positive COVID-19 cases in our area recently, which is certainly a good reason for remaining careful. However, we also believe some perspective is important. It is worth mentioning that many of our community’s largest employers — WIPP, the potash mines, many oil and gas jobs — are essential and also 30 to 50 miles (or more) out of town. Our unemployment numbers have stayed low throughout the COVID-19 outbreak as well, due to the large number of jobs here that have been deemed essential.
According to a recent study by the Arrowhead Center, the petroleum industry alone in Eddy County was responsible for generating $6.4 billion for state and local governments between 2012 and 2018. That includes $1.1 billion in school tax and $1.2 billion through the severance tax. Our workforce has stayed busy generating revenue that continues to support the entire state, and, yes, that often involves travel.
It is also worth mentioning that we have been very fortunate in terms of having very few hospitalizations related to COVID-19 in our area since the outbreak began.
Finally, it’s worth noting that the New Mexico Department of Health’s own epidemiology report, dated Aug. 11, concluded that ALL regions in the state, including the southeast, had a relative growth rate for cases of less than zero as of the report’s publication. Southeast New Mexico also continues to have the lowest case fatality rate of any part of the state.
We encourage the Governor and members of her staff to be cautious about generalizing when it comes to the citizens of Southeast New Mexico. While we have been critical of many of the Governor’s decisions here — in particular her decision to re-close restaurants — that should not be misconstrued as dismissing COVID-19 concerns. It is very discouraging to have the citizens and businesses in our community, who have worked so hard to adapt over the past few months and who always contribute so much to this state, continually being unfairly singled out.
Carlsbad and Eddy County are extremely concerned about the recent uptick in positive cases, and most residents and businesses have been consistent with their precautions to help reduce the spread of COVID-19. However, most of our residents are also very concerned about local businesses having to shut down for good and what that means for our economy as a whole and personally for our friends and neighbors.
For example, on Thursday, we were informed of another local business that will have to shut its doors for good. The owners of Yum Yum Yogurt asked us to let you know that they are closing on Aug. 30. Katrina and Jesus Fierro invite you to come visit them at their location at 2101 S. Canal from 1-8 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and 1-7 p.m. Sunday. They are also looking for a buyer. For more information, please call 575-725-5776.