New Mexico warns Curry County Commissioners, employees to wear masks or face fines


CURRY COUNTY, N.M. (KAMR/KCIT) – A recorded Curry County Board of Commissioners meeting prompted the New Mexico Department of Health (NMDOH) to issue a warning to board members and employees about the consequences of breaking a public health order requiring masks indoors.

In a letter written Sept. 30, NMDOH Deputy Secretary Billy Jiminez told the Curry board members that they had been seen repeatedly violating the Aug. 17 order. Updated on Sept. 15, the order required that everyone over two years old wear a mask “or multilayer cloth face covering” in all indoor public settings, except when eating or drinking, unless told otherwise by a healthcare provider. All businesses, establishments, and nonprofit entities were also required to follow COVID-19 safe practices.

Despite the requirement, Jiminez pointed toward videos posted on the board’s website to meetings from Aug. 30, Sept. 9, and Sept. 14 that showed several members and county employees not wearing, or improperly wearing, masks.

“Likewise,” Jiminez noted, “it appears that very few members of the public wore masks at those Board meetings.”

Like much of the country, Texas included, the more contagious Delta variant of the virus brought a surge of COVID-19 hospitalizations to New Mexico. The surge only added to medical resources statewide and across the region to be scarce. A similar crisis has been ongoing in Amarillo, even as cases have somewhat decreased.

“Curry County, like much of the state, has continued to experience a high COVID-19 positivity rate, and less than half of the population of Curry County is fully vaccinated against the disease.” continued Jiminez’s letter, “Upon information and belief, a member of the Curry County Board of County Commissioners recently
died from COVID-19. The effects of COVID-19’s spread have been devastating, for Curry County and for the state as a whole, and the dangers of the disease are readily apparent.”

The City of Clovis Economic Development Director Chase Gentry died from complications of COVID-19 toward the beginning of September. He had spent two decades leading the Clovis Industrial Development Corporation.

Jiminez went on to describe how COVID-19 spreads the most through the air when people exhale or speak. Because of that, public events indoors such as the Board of Commissioners meetings “present unique risks for the spread of COVID-19. Masks, along with social distancing, have proven to be the most effective and simple tools for limiting its spread.”

“The Department urges the Board and its staff to please wear masks, and to please require the use of masks by attendees of the Board’s meetings,” said the letter, asking for compliance with the August order. Further violations could subject the Commission, its individual members, County employees, and attendants to the meetings to fines of up to $5,000 per violation.

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