Diane Denish

​© 2021 NEW MEXICO NEWS SERVICES   8/30/21
Vaccine, mask protests have consequences
By Diane Denish

Corner to Corner
             As if we didn’t have enough to worry about, the governor’s mask mandate for schools has caused a loud and probably unnecessary dust up.
            In Floyd (population 133), located in Roosevelt County, which has the lowest vaccination rates in New Mexico, the Floyd School Board twice voted not to comply with the governor’s statewide mask mandate for public schools. The board fired their superintendent when he refused to comply with the board’s decision because it would violate the law.
            The state Public Education Department (PED) took over the school district, suspended the board, reinstated the superintendent, and appointed former Las Cruces superintendent Stan Rounds as a one-man school board. PED has since filed a lawsuit asking the court to validate its actions.
             Sound like a complicated process? That’s because it is, and it’s about to get more so.
            An amended public health order, which took effect August 20, requires all school workers, paid and unpaid, to provide proof of vaccination and, if unwilling, provide weekly negative COVID tests. In addition, unvaccinated school workers must be always masked unless they provide instruction by a doctor directing otherwise.
            While Floyd’s defiance has been more public, a variety of other protests have been reported in Lea, Eddy, and Chaves counties – perhaps in Curry as well, where students have enrolled in Texas schools to avoid remote learning, mask and vaccination requirements. In the private and public sectors folks threaten to quit their jobs rather than meet their employers’ or the state’s mandatory mask and vaccination requirements.  
            All of this has consequences.   
            COVID-19 cases are skyrocketing. Local schools lose money every time a family decides to enroll their kids across the state line. Hospitals are at capacity, healthcare workers are exhausted, our neighbors are dying, and others will have long-term health problems.
            In New Mexico, as elsewhere, everyone has someone to blame -- kids who go to school in Texas where no protections are in place and bring the virus back; tourists from Texas in Santa Fe, Taos, Elephant Butte and other spots who don’t have to comply with any safeguards at home and refuse to do so here; immigrants crossing the border (processing centers have lower positive rates than most counties); and local elected leaders’ failure to encourage face coverings, vaccinations or other safeguards.
            Add to that, it’s county fair time!
            Recently the largest surge of cases in Lea County came after the fair when positive cases began consistently topping 100 per day to over 200 on some days.   While Lea County has always taken pride in having the state’s largest county fair where everyone can have a good time, this year that comes with a new burden – the spread of COVID-19. 
            So yes, there is plenty of finger pointing going on. Not to mention the many excuses we hear about why folks won’t wear masks or get vaccinated. 
            Yes, it’s complicated. Or is it? Perhaps we are just making excuses for not adhering to the limited restrictions that have challenged and exhausted us and at the same time have proven to work. Is it as complicated as some like to make it – board vs. state, superintendent vs. board, Republicans vs. Democrat, proven data vs. misinformation?  I think not.
            The chain of events in Floyd underscores this:  It’s only as complicated as we make it. The truth is simple and now almost indisputable. Stopping COVID-19 means getting vaccinated and wearing masks until infections are significantly reduced or negligible. Stopping COVID-19 is on all of us. It’s time to stop the blame and excuses and do your part.