CIBOLA COUNTY, N.M. – The COVID-19 pandemic halted the economy in Cibola County, New Mexico, and the rest of the world. Now, nearly seven months into living in a world of self-isolation and social distancing, New Mexicans will be able to slowly breathe life back into their economy.
New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham has announced that a previously implemented two-week quarantine, mandated for people who travelled out of state, can be lifted if those people come from certain states. The loosened restrictions also give guidance about voting in the fall election.
Where is Cibola now?
Cibola County as of Monday, Sept. 8, has 398 positive cases, 20 deaths and 226 recovered from COVID-19.
Cibola County Emergency Manager Dusting Middleton said that it would be safe to subtract the recovered from the total cases to find the active case number of 172 active COVID-19 cases in the county. There are 329 total cases of COVID-19 in the correctional facilities, those numbers are not adjusted, and the state does not track – publicly – the recoveries in the facilities. The correctional facilities are tracked separately from the county’s overall numbers.
Two age groups are responsible for most of Cibola’s positive cases, the 20-to-29 and 30-to-39. The two age groups make up 134 of the county’s total positive cases. Overall, women in the county are testing positive at much higher rates than men, with women making up 212 of the county’s total positives, or about 55 percent of the county’s cases, according to the New Mexico Department of Health. County Emergency Manager Middleton said that at this point there is no evidence to suggest that women are more likely to contract COVID-19 and that further research must be completed.
The Pueblos of Acoma and Laguna announced in a joint statement that both Pueblos are COVID-19 free, with no active cases between the two. Both Pueblo governors say that despite this, work will continue to slow the spread of the coronavirus `and try to keep it out of the Pueblos.
“This milestone is a direct result of our collective efforts, ongoing communication, and collaboration. This joint effort is a prime example of implementing our shared values and desire to protect our Tribal members during this time of public health crisis,” according to a joint statement from Pueblo officials.
Tourism helps drive the economy across the county, and on Sept. 3 Governor Lujan Grisham announced that travelers from “lowerrisk states” do not have to quarantine once they arrive in New Mexico.
“In order to strike a balance between public health and ensuring New Mexicans can live and move safely in a COVIDpositive world until the arrival of an effective and widely available vaccine, we have to make tough, strategic and data-driven decisions,” Governor Lujan Grisham said, “As I have said, we have to maintain the necessary precautions to keep the people of New Mexico safe while identifying areas where we can amend restrictions to address our state’s economic crisis. Without a coherent federal plan, we are on our own, and it is up to New Mexicans to keep making the right decisions every day to protect themselves, their families and our state.”
To be considered a “lower-risk state,” a traveler must come to N.M. from a state that has less than a five percent COVID-19 positivity rate, or a new case rate lower than 80 per one million residents calculated over a seven-day rolling average. The New Mexico Department of Health is asking that any New Mexicans who travel to these states get tested for COVID-19 within five days of arrival. For reference, Cibola County has a positivity rate of 0.8 percent, according to the NMDOH.
NMDOH still requests that visitors from a lowerrisk states self-isolate until they can get tested. Travelers from unsafe states, states that are above a five percent COVID-19 positivity rate, and all travelers from outside of the country, must isolate for two-weeks unless they have a COVID-19 test and can prove that they are negative within 72-hours of arriving in New Mexico.
These travel restrictions do not apply to airplane staff, military service personnel, people performing public safety or health operations, emergency first responders and health care workers, people who arrive in the state due to a court order, people who are considered “essential workers” as outlined in the earlier public health orders, and people who have left the state to seek medical care.
With these reduced restrictions hotels and other places of lodging are also able to expand their services and allow 50 percent occupancy, instead of the 25 percent under which they have been operating. Hotels or places of lodging can start allowing this change, places of lodging that have been certified by the state to be COVID-safe will be allowed to expand their occupancy to 75 percent. The NMDOH issued this warning, “All places of lodging must operate in accordance with COVID-safe practices.”
“The hospitality industry has taken a proactive and thoughtful approach to reimagining operations in the midst of a pandemic, which inspired the N.M. Safe Certified program,” said Tourism Secretary Jen Paul Schroer. “The revision to the public health order to allow greater capacity for N.M. Safe Certified hotels is welcome news for the tourism industry. I’m confident that the industry will continue to set an example for how businesses can operate safely and responsibly for employees and customers.”
“Election facilities must remain accessible to the public under the state’s Election Code, and as such we’ve got to ensure that everyone casting a ballot may do so safely,” New Mexico Secretary of Health Kathy Kunkel said. “There is still a risk of COVID-19 transmission no matter where we go. Our job is to make these facilities as safe as possible while strongly encouraging New Mexicans to take every precaution while casting their ballot this fall.”
To help see a safe election, all polling places are restricted to 25 percent of the building’s occupancy or four voters at a time, whichever is greater. Some communities have mobile voting units, those can see no more than two voters at a time. Social distancing will be required – every voter must be six feet apart and wear a mask properly.
To avoid any lines or confusion on election day, New Mexicans can request an absentee ballot application from https://portal.sos.state.nm.us/OVR/WebPages/AbsenteeApplication.aspx or by calling the Cibola County Clerk’s Office at 505-285-2535.
In-person early voting begins Saturday, Oct. 17 and ends Saturday, Oct. 31. On election day, Nov. 3, the polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.; voters who are in line when the polls close will be allowed to wait in line to vote.