JD Kersey, left, and his sister, Abby Kersey of Magdalena, play with one of four pigs they planned to show at the New Mexico State Fair next month. The siblings were devastated to learn they probably won’t be able to go under a state mandate requiring anyone eligible for the COVID-19 to be fully vaccinated to enter the fairgrounds. While Abby is 11, JD is 12 and not yet vaccinated and wouldn’t be fully vaccinated by the time the state fair starts.

Bad news awaited brother and sister JD and Abby Kersey when they got home from school Tuesday afternoon.

Just an hour earlier, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham announced that anyone eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine must show proof of being fully vaccinated to attend the New Mexico State Fair, where the middle school students from Magdalena planned to show steers, lambs and pigs — animals they’ve been raising for months.

JD, who is 12 and eligible for a vaccine, isn’t vaccinated, and even if he got his first dose this week, he would be too late to meet the governor’s mandate.

“I just wish that she would have gotten some feedback from rural New Mexico on the impacts,” Kayla Kersey, the children’s mother, said in a telephone interview Wednesday. “I know that there’s the carnival and the rides and all of that, but the junior livestock group of people would have helped figure out a way to do this in a safe manner without having to make these mandates.”

The vaccine requirement for young exhibitors, announced three weeks before the start of the state fair, is generating harsh criticism against the governor.

The New Mexico Cattle Growers Association and a couple of Republican senators are urging Lujan Grisham to reconsider the vaccine requirement for youth, saying it will prevent scores of students from showing their animals or participating in other exhibits at the state fair.

“First and foremost, we do understand the governor’s desire to protect New Mexicans and especially those under 12 against the COVID-19 infection,” said Shelleen Smith, the association’s executive director. “But we also feel that consideration has to be given for exhibitors. They cannot meet the requirements due to this short notice.”

Smith said there are youth who have put a year’s worth of work into their livestock projects and won’t be able to afford to do a project next year if they can’t sell their livestock this year.

“We just have concern for our kids,” she said. “They’ve worked so hard for the past year.”

Sens. Crystal Diamond, R-Elephant Butte, and Cliff Pirtle, R-Roswell, want the governor to lift the vaccine requirement at the state fair for all youth, not just exhibitors.

“While we understand the pressures you and other state officials are experiencing, we feel this decision was particularly careless and inconsiderate of the children and parents of our state,” Diamond and Pirtle wrote in a joint letter to the governor. “No family should be faced with the dilemma of receiving an experimental vaccine or having their hard work be completely lost.”

In an interview, Diamond called the vaccine requirement for youth “quite an overreach and quite a surprise.”

“We are not opposed to social-distancing requirements,” Diamond said. “I think we can spread out. I think our exhibitors have agreed that they would abide by mask mandates. It’s when the governor came in and mandated the vaccine for some of our younger exhibitors that we feel that it crossed the line. Keep in mind, that’s not even a requirement to attend public school at this time.”

Diamond said the governor’s mandate seems like a “shotgun approach” that targets young people primarily from rural parts of the state.

“I grew up in 4-H and FFA [Future Farmers of America], and I personally showed at the New Mexico State Fair,” said Diamond, who showed pigs and dairy heifers in her youth. “Preparing for that livestock show, preparing for the travel, is all part of the experience. … It’s something that you prepare for and you work hard, and so even the experience is a reward in itself.”

Asked about the concerns Diamond and others are expressing about unvaccinated youth being unable to exhibit at the state fair, Nora Meyers Sackett, the governor’s press secretary, wrote in an email that the coronavirus pandemic is a life-or-death situation.

“Concerns are warranted when New Mexico hospitals are rapidly approaching crisis standards of care because of unvaccinated New Mexicans spreading a highly infectious and incredibly dangerous virus despite the widespread availability and efficacy of vaccines,” she wrote, referring to the rationing of health care when hospitals are overwhelmed.

“Hundreds of New Mexicans are very seriously ill, and hundreds and thousands more will become very seriously ill, if the virus has the opportunity to continue to spread among unvaccinated populations, particularly at large events,” she added. “This large event is under the state’s authority. Vaccines are required, because anything less is irresponsible and will lead to sickness and potentially death, needless death, and that’s the end of the story.”

Tricia Elbrock, who was a 4-H leader for 40 years, said the vaccine requirement will cost an untold number of young exhibitors the opportunity to attend the state fair. She said many youth who show their animals at the state fair live in sparsely populated areas and probably aren’t vaccinated.

“They spend beaucoup of money on these animals all year long, and then she slaps them with this?” she said angrily. “They’ve already paid for their premiums. They already paid their entry fees. So, are they going to get reimbursed for that? She better rethink it.”

Kayla Kersey, whose children are unlikely to show their livestock at the state fair because of the vaccine requirement, said the biggest problem with the governor’s mandate is the short notice. Her daughter, who is 11, is not required to be fully vaccinated under the governor’s mandate.

“There’s no time to get him fully vaccinated. That’s frustrating,” she said. “If they would have told us months ago, we would have been able to have some time to really make a proper decision about something that I do think is not just something you should do on a whim.”

Kersey said she wished the governor could’ve seen the devastation on her children’s faces when she and her husband, Cody, delivered the bad news.

“They were just heartbroken,” she said. “Completely devastated. … This is a family project, and our whole family was just devastated last night.”

Another parent, Talisha Valdez, said she has two daughters who also planned to show lambs and pigs at the state fair. While one of the girls is 11, the other is 12 and not yet vaccinated, “nor do I want to get her vaccinated,” she said, adding that she and her husband aren’t vaccinated, either.

Valdez said she and her family have invested a lot of hours and money to prepare their animals for the state fair.

“For [the governor] to mandate this so close [to the state fair], a lot of kids can’t be vaccinated in that time period,” she said. “It’s going to affect a lot of families and a lot of money and the agricultural industry as a whole.”

Valdez said she still hasn’t told her daughters they probably won’t be able to attend the state fair this year because she’s holding out hope the governor will reconsider her decision.

“Those long hours that we’ve put in, for what? Now we’re just going to have to basically eat them, which we can do, but that’s not the whole point of why they worked all this summer,” she said. “It’s to go show off and be competitive and get that spirit back in these kids. They need this. They need something normal, and it keeps getting taken away from them.”

(44) comments

Pam Walker

Blows my mind that they are allowing 10,000 people to come to Indian Market (lots of money there) but won't let kids in the fair that have worked all year with their livestock to get a chance to show them because they aren't vaccinated.

Janet Eduardo

Ms Valdez needs to see the light. The only one "taking" things from her children is she herself and people like her who refuse to get vaccinated, thereby allowing the virus to continue to spread and mutate.

John Solan

Ms. Valdez's reluctance is understandable. All of the vaccines are still categorized as Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) by the FDA. An EUA has never been granted for a brand new vaccine before. Any potential negative long-term effects of the vaccine on children are still unknown. According CDC's figures, the survival rate for those under 20 is 99.997% which makes the push to vaccinate school age children incomprehensible.

Jim Klukkert

Not so John Solan! Since your posting of the 19th, on Monday 23 August "The Food and Drug Administration has formally approved Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine. The widely anticipated decision replaces the emergency use authorization granted by the agency last December."

- Pfizer-BioNTech's COVID Vaccine Gets Full Approval From The FDA as reported on NPR

One might also consider the months long world wide vaccination programs as the world's largest field testing of vaccines. with overwhelming positive results. Certainly way more positive than actually being infected. On a broad population wide level, certainly way more positive than allowing a large portion of the population un-vaccinated, thus allowing the virus a large playground where the virus mutates into ever more dangerous strains, such as the Delta variant.

Or not.

Carolyn DM

Safety sparks outcry among the brainwashed. Imagine that!!

Mike Johnson

More politics being played by MLG, this time against children.

Carolyn DM

It's called keeping the people of this state safe, including children. Your Trumpf god that you so worship was the beginning of this pandemic being politicized. Learn the difference!!

Margaret Eyler

Carolyn if you're going to go on about Trump politicizing the pandemic, I encourage you to watch the reels of democrats saying they wouldn't take a vaccine Trump endorsed. Quite entertaining.

Janet Eduardo

Yeah, it's better to let them contract covid and suffer the consequences, right?

Robert Fields

MLG is keeping kids safe - not playing politics. Covid has a 1.7% death rate among unvaccinated according to Johns Hopkins. Over 160 million have been vaccinated with only a handful of deadly reactions. Only 2 to 5 per million have a serious reaction to the vaccine and far fewer than that die.

Want to bet retirements except you use the odds of dying from the vaccine while I use the odds of dying from covid? There’s less than a 1 in 10,000 chance that I would lose.

It’s too bad the right *is* playing politics instead of protecting their kids from dying or suffering long-term consequences from covid. Even your fearful misleader Trump is now saying to get the vaccine.

Scott Smart

Just get vaccinated..

Ian Fe

Yes, everyone should just get vaccinated because the vaccinations are safe and effective

Stephen Hauf

It could be that given unvaccinated American behavior in regard to the COVID-19 virus is a prelude to an even more deadly pandemic. Waiting for an opportunity is monkeypox a cousin to smallpox. Every vaccine is experimental in that new versions are being made as viruses change their stripes.

Laurie Buffer

Wow! People are amazing ~ blaming parents for not wanting to "vaccinate" their children with an experimental shot that hasn't even been licensed nor do "the powers that be" know the long term effects. I have stated before that if adults want to take the chance, great. However to subject your children to an experiment just seems wrong on all levels. Let these kids be kids!!

John Cook

The vaccine has been given to more than 162,000,000 Americans under authorization by the FDA. Those 162 million cases have proven the safety and effectiveness of the vaccine. Parents who resist those facts to the detriment of their children are properly blamed.

Margaret Eyler

And there are over 40 MILLION children living in the United States, but less than 400 of them have died of covid TO DATE. It's like putting your kid on chemo just in case they get cancer.

Jim Klukkert

How can we trust Margaret Eyler's uncited "facts," when she today, 26 August, posts such obvious lies such as “Israel’s eligible population is almost 100% vaccinated?”

The answer is do not trust Ms. Eyler’s assertions. Eyler is a font of lies, distortions and misinformation.

Sabine Strohem

@Laurie: you can keep saying "experiment" but you're still wrong. I want the kids to be kids. I want them alive, and safe. I assume you do too?

Scott Smart

Laurie your statement is without merit

Robert Fields

Laurie, you are so very right! Instead of experimenting with a vaccine with rates of anaphylaxis at a rate of 2-5 in a million, is usually non-fatal, and easily treated and monitored for after getting the vaccine, we should experiment with letting children get a virus that has a 1 in 60 death rate (1.7% according to Johns Hopkins) and can lead to things like prolonged and debilitating illness, require lung transplants, provides hosts for more infections and possible mutations, etc.

Yep. You are so very right. But very wrong.

Margaret Eyler

Children are .00%-.22% of all Covid deaths. Not 1 in 60 death rate.

Margaret Eyler


Sabine Strohem

It's a deadly pandemic. Too bad if your unvaccinated kid can't get a ribbon at a fair because you didn't do the right thing when you should have.

Margaret Eyler

It's not deadly for children.

Judy Montoya

do not place blame on the Governor, the BLAME is squarely on the shoulders of parents who chose not to vaccinate their children, as my son says when you point a finger, 4 more are pointing back at you. Does no one take responsibility for their actions anymore, there are always consequences when you don't do the right thing.

Margaret Eyler when your state continually votes authoritarian democrats to high powers?

Judy Montoya

I'm sorry people the vaccine has been available for this age range since spring, why did

you not get vaccinated, especially because they are school age. There was opportunity to get it done!!!!!

Margaret Eyler

Because if two years ago someone told you the government was going to mandate that the entire population gets jabbed in the arm with an experimental drug to combat a mysterious illness that is statistically not likely to kill them, you might think that was worth a bit of pause...

Charles W Rodriguez

The number of contemporary 'me first' whiners is absolutely demoralizing. When did this country become so self centered?

Robert Fields

The lion’s share of that move came late in 2016, IIRC…

Santiago Filamino


Margaret Eyler

I think it started somewhere around the sexual revolution....

Dan Frazier

The State Fair is an annual event, which means the governor has known for months (at least) that it was coming up. Vaccines have been available months (at least). The governor could have and should have issued this mandate months ago (at least). Since she did not issue it in a timely fashion, perhaps the mandate should be modified so that only a first dose is required before the fair. Alternatively, the mandate might not be applied to animal exhibitors so long as they remain with their animals when at the fair. Another option would be to just cancel the fair.

David Gunter

Months ago we thought we were in the clear as everyone was getting vaccinated and new case rates were nose diving. It would have been foolish to make such a mandate then.

The current problem is the fault of all those who failed to get vaccinated and allowed this new variant to set us so far back. Put the blame were it belongs.

Robert Fields


Philip Taccetta


Margaret Eyler

Or it's at the fault of people that have let the msm convince them it's unvaccinated people's fault...If someone is unvaccinated that's a "them" problem, not your problem.

Robert Fields

Well, except the delta variant is what is driving these restrictions and delta and it’s extreme communicability wasn’t known well enough to mandate these measures and restrictions months ago. The full impact of delta wasn’t apparent until just over the last few weeks. We were almost done with this pandemic and everything was opening up.

Your anger with MLG is misplaced. This situation was created by anti-vaxxers and anti-maskers. Had everyone able got their shots and worn masks, delta wouldn’t be near the issue it is now. Now we all get to react yet again to a pandemic that has lasted way longer than it needed to.

And the vaccines are very effective but not quite as much against delta. One shot gives some protection after a couple of weeks but it’s never been as good as having both shots. People with both shots are still able to get and transmit delta just not nearly as much as unvaccinated. Most hospitalizations and deaths now are unvaccinated. One shot isn’t good enough now.

Nothing about this is new or unpredicted. We were warned that large infected populations would be a breeding ground for covid mutations and that some could be worse. That is still true. We were advised to get the vaccine, to mask, and to distance to help contain and reduce infected populations. That takes strain off the health care system and saves lives. But some refused and still refuse to help fight covid. It’s not impossible that there could be yet another variant that is as or even more infectious and more deadly. The only way to fight that scenario is for everyone who can to get vaccinated, mask up, and distance. The longer we let this pandemic continue the more we roll the dice and the better chance we roll another snake eyes.

Margaret Eyler

Masks don't work, Bob. Most recent research shows that cloth masks are 10% effective and surgical masks are 12% effective.

In addition, the "6 ft rule" was made up out of nothing and varies by country. So much for science.

People of a certain population should most definitely get vaccinated, but you blame their hesitancy towards an experimental drug with such ferocity without recognizing that you yourself blindly put faith in things that have no merit.

Jim Klukkert

Masks DO WORK, Margaret Eyler! At least according to the CDC:

"Wearing masks can help communities slow the spread of COVID-19 when worn consistently and correctly by a majority of people in public settings and when masks are used along with other preventive measures, including social distancing, frequent handwashing, and cleaning and disinfecting."

Additionally, the FDA has for some days not only recognized the Pfizer vaccine as effective, but also certified its use. So there is no longer a need for 'hesitancy towards an experimental drug.'

Coupling the the misinformation you post here, with the distortions you posted on August 26 in comments to "New Mexico hospitals close to rationing care, state health chief says," I will again say that you are "a shameless full force font of distortions, LIES, and in general, MIS-INFORMATION, who is not worthy of our trust."

Thanks but no thanks, Ms. Eyler.

Sabine Strohem

@dan, had she issued a mandate "months ago" there would have been OUTRAGE. You know that.

Lynn k Allen

The animals & kids are THE REASON for the State Fair. I Love them.


A Delay is ok.

Scott Smart

And each of us individually have had the opportunity to get vaccinated for months. This is not the governor's fault...

Margaret Eyler

Or just not mandate that children be vaccinated. If all the adults are the ones more likely to be hospitalized then why does it matter what the kids do?

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