Mama T’s Road to Ruin — known for a chile-smothered chicken-fried steak that’s big enough to be served up on a car hood — is a can’t-miss joint if you’re anywhere close to this small town in Quay County.

As restaurant owner Brian Cox went about his day while feeding the people of Logan, he paused to consider why so few people in his part of the state have gotten their COVID-19 vaccine.

“How are they gonna make a vaccine to prevent something they know nothing about?” asked Cox. “I constantly hear people worrying that the side effects are going to be worse than the actual thing the shot is supposed to prevent.”

Skepticism, isolation, politics, fear, fatigue: All seem to play a role in New Mexico towns and counties where vaccine-takers are few and a distrust of the coronavirus pandemic — and government’s attempts to deal with it — run deep.

The numbers tell the tale: In many locales, particularly those close to Texas, vaccination rates are 10 percent, 20 percent or 30 percent below the rest of the state.

And some, like Cox, say there’s a reason for that.

“It was one of those deals, especially in rural America, locals were against it 100 percent,” Cox said of the state and federal government approach to the pandemic, including vaccinations, in places like Quay County where just 41.8 percent of residents have been inoculated.

Of the other New Mexico counties bordering Texas on the state’s east side, only one — Union — has a vaccination rate of more than 50 percent. Lea County is at 41.2 percent, followed by Curry County at 39.6 percent. Roosevelt is the lowest at 32 percent.

Contrast that with other areas of the state, where much of the over-16 population has at least one shot, and it’s plain there are two New Mexicos — one ready to lend an arm and one nowhere close.

Numbers in areas more receptive to the vaccine are vastly different. McKinley County, devastated by COVID-19 through much of 2020, has the second-highest vaccination rate at 77.9, trailing only Los Alamos County, which leads the state at 84.3 percent. Taos and Santa Fe counties are third and fourth at 73.1 percent and 73 percent, respectively.

Such figures seem astronomical when talking to people in places like Clovis.

Richard Tobin recently moved to the seat of Curry County with his fiancée, who he said is ardently opposed to the vaccine.

“She would never let me get the vaccine,” Tobin said as he bowled at a local alley in Clovis. “I do think the government has been out of control.”

Battling that perception is maddening for some medical providers in the area, who note the emergence of the delta variant of the coronavirus — which medical experts say is the latest danger for those who have yet to receive the vaccine — is poised to do damage in the area.

The lagging rates raise the eyebrows of national health experts, who point to states like Missouri, where high numbers of unvaccinated people have led to COVID-19 spikes.

“That’s what’s playing out in Missouri now as young and middle-aged people get sick and pile into ICUs. It’s what will happen in similar pockets like that across the country,” Dr. Peter Hotez said of the new variant’s disproportionate impact on communities with low vaccination rates.

Those concerns linger for New Mexico as well.

“Although the vaccines are very effective (90% effectiveness), these pockets of low vaccination still pose danger to the rest of the state because children under 12 (nearly 300,000 children) are still not vaccinated (since the vaccine has only been approved for 12 and up) and there are many people with medical conditions who cannot get vaccinated,” Sara Del Valle, a mathematical and computational epidemiologist at Los Alamos National Laboratory, wrote in an email.

LaDawna Brooks, chief of diagnostic and therapeutic services at the 22-bed Roosevelt General Hospital in Portales, framed the issue more directly.

“I know the U.S. has identified five hot spots,” she said. “Eastern New Mexico and West Texas is one of them.”

Yet if medical providers and some officials in Eastern New Mexico are frustrated by their neighbors’ unwillingness to get the shot, they also note undocumented workers who tend to Eastern New Mexico’s many ranches and dairy farms also have shied away from obtaining the vaccine.

“There is a divide in reaching some of our undocumented folks,” Brooks said.

She’s not wrong. A Lea County man who identified himself only as Antonio, originally from southern Mexico, acknowledged he hasn’t received the vaccine for fear of revealing his status.

“I would get the shot, but I don’t have a license,” he said, referring to how some clinics and hospitals in the area require identification to get a vaccine.

Dan Heerding, director of Clovis/Curry County Emergency Management, said the problem is the same in Clovis.

“Some people are very distrustful of the government due to their [immigration] status,” Heerding said while setting up a no-ID vaccination event outside Habitat for Humanity in Clovis. “We’re trying to get to the pockets that we can. To reach the population that is very difficult to reach due to their status.”

For Brooks, who has lived in the area since she was 9, other factors are in play as well, many related to what people see as conflicting information about the virus.

“We saw discrepancies in information regarding transmission (airborne or not), masking, virus spread (we had been told 6 ft. for most of the pandemic, but when schools started back desks could be 3 ft. apart) from the CDC,” Brooks wrote in a follow-up email. “This back and forth was scientists trying to better understand and interpret what was happening in real-time, but to the lay public, it appeared disorganized and not trustworthy.”

Though state Department of Health officials hope an increased push to reach people in New Mexico’s rural areas will increase vaccination, Brooks and Heeding acknowledged long-standing cultural barriers — not just politics or personal concerns — work against the efforts.

“As an entire community, we don’t really seek preventive care unless it is really needed,” Brooks said. “I think this [the vaccination] is seen as preventative care.”

“We’re so close to Texas. It’s almost that mentality,” Heeding noted, referring to the predominantly conservative politics of the two counties in which he works.

Such emotions play out in some of the state’s smallest places. In Southern New Mexico, an anti-mask/anti-vaccination protest — one of a dozen around the state — was organized in Deming. There was also one in Logan, population 620, where a kids’ mask-burning event was held in a parking lot near Mama T’s.

“People are sick and tired of it,” Cox said of the feeling of government overreach in his community. “I understand completely.”

For Brooks, who helps run the only hospital in Roosevelt County, anything that leads to an increase in COVID-19 in the region is a concern.

“A spike in cases anywhere in the surrounding area can overwhelm our system,” she said. “Especially if receiving hospitals are full and ground or air transport is inundated with calls.”

(46) comments

Diad Wheeler

This is not all bad news. Consider these facts:

-Most states with the lowest Covid vaccination rates voted for Trump.

-Fox news is railing against Covid vaccinations (even thought their chairman and probably their hosts got the shots) and the primary demographic of that news outlet is old white people who vote Republican.

-The new variant is more contagious.

-The vaccines protect agains the variant.

-Old people are at higher risk of either dying or having long-term effects from Covid-19.

Consequently, with a bit of good fortune, we’ll have fewer nut-cases who subscribe to half-baked conspiracy theories going to the polls because they will be the ones who get virus and never recover from it.

Tom Hyland

If you want to learn that the "novel" coronavirus is not novel or new at all, and in fact has been patented, owned, and recorded as such since 2000, along with 72 other weaponized viruses, then watch this video. Two hours in length, if you reach the 30 minute mark you will realize that this current global catastrophe of virus & vaccine has been planned, bought and paid for, and enormous profits have been attained by the very few and powerful. Dr. David Martin is the founding CEO of M∙CAM Inc. which is the international leader in intellectual property-based financial risk management. He reads to you the public records of the virus patents, who filed them and who is profiting from this plandemic... very carefully planned.


mark Coble

Facts like these are usually censored!

Gini Barrett

I seem to recall some problems in that same general area with dogs having rabies because they were not vaccinated.

Ralph Lomax

Bet Ya every last one of those doubters support and believe trump, but won't admit it !!!!

Tom Hyland

Ralph, you love Trump, you're just confused. Trump told America he was going to "deliver the vaccine in a very powerful way." He was referring to calling out the armed forces to go door to door and deliver the vaccines. Biden can't hold a candle to Trump when it comes to keeping Birx & Fauci right there with him in the trenches. Trump became vaccine salesman to the world. To this day he's still on the bandwagon insisting everyone get vaxxed. C'mon, you love Trump.

Ralph Lomax

LOL, Tom, LOL !!!!

Marie Naphsid

Again, this newspaper is pushing the falsehood that these Covid shots are “approved”. None of them are FDA approved, and the manufactureres are free from liability.

In countries where the shots are not approved (like the USA), they are considered “investigational” according to Pfizer, and no claim can be made on its safety or efficacy.

Ralph Lomax

Oh Golly, Marie, Don't get any shot that is not approved !!!

mark Coble

Correct, don't be experimental subject.

Angel Ortiz

Typical, entitled Americans. Fine. Don't get the vaccine, stay home. Unfortunately, this won't happen, and if the virus spins out of control again more people will die. Get the body bags and buy your masks. Being ignorant is not an excuse.

mark Coble

Fear and panic message.

Tom Hyland

I quote the following from an article posted in the link below...

"All last year, we were told by the government and media that every single death, no matter the actual cause, was a result of “covid.” That was before the “vaccines” made their appearance, of course. Now, despite prolific evidence that the injections are causing mass disease and death, the medical system is refusing to acknowledge this fact and is still blaming all deaths on “covid.” There is a systematic refusal among those calling the shots to even consider that Fauci Flu shots might be spreading the “variants” and causing some people to drop dead from various known side effects. The toll of post-vaccine deaths has reached nearly 7,000, according to the Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System (VAERS). It’s the best system we’ve got, even though it misses 90% or more of the actual events.”


Philip Taccetta

What a load of delusional lies. You were obviously made receptive by believing the thousands of lies told by your hero, the disgusting orange thing.

Tom Hyland

That's your religion, Phillip. This is what you believe. I do not attend your church. Read my comments below.

mark Coble

Common thread. Always blame Trump! That's delusional.

mark Coble

Too true, it scares folks to acknowledge the fraud as it leads to real questions!

Carolyn DM

It's totally not surprising that the anti-vaxxer counties are largely Red voting counties. I hope they know that their brainwashing is permanent!!

Amy Earle


Just so you understand most people wearing a mask despite vaccination are not doing so because they don’t trust the vaccine. Children under 12 can not yet be vaccinated. They have grandchildren or younger relatives they do not want to take a chance of giving the virus to because of exposure to the unvaccinated. There are people who for medical reasons can not be vaccinated and there are those who are cancer survivors, immune compromised, etc. that the vaccination may not work as well on. They are interested in protecting them. Some people have also become used to mask wearing. It’s a good protection against other illness that will especially be circulating in fall. If you have a decent mask they are not a burden in any way. Public health is just that. It is the reason children are vaccinated for all sorts of diseases. It has nothing to do with left or right. That only became a thing when a psychopath became POTUS and made it his life’s goal to create as much division in the society as possible.

Mike Johnson

OK, so let me try to understand, you think that fully vaccinated people can infect the unvaccinated? Please cite the CDC science that says that happens. I have never heard that is a danger. Here is what Dr. Walensky said: "Dr. Walensky’s comments hinted that protection was complete. “Our data from the C.D.C. today suggests that vaccinated people do not carry the virus, don’t get sick,” she said. “And that it’s not just in the clinical trials, it’s also in real-world data.”" Now, I understand vaccines are not 100%, only 90-95%, but how can anyone think a mask makes it 100% or even improves the odds over a vaccine? That is not scientifically supported. Vaccines are far better than masks. So yes, if you are wearing a mask, it really means you think the vaccine is not effective enough, thus don't trust them.

mark Coble

Logic and science is discouraged!

mark Coble

What's in those face diapers at end of day? No harm? Source please. What did OSHA used to say about masks prior to scamdemic? Look it up...very damning.

Brian Goldbeck

An AP analysis of available government data from May shows that “breakthrough” infections in fully vaccinated people accounted for fewer than 1,200 of more than 107,000 COVID-19 hospitalizations. That’s about 1.1%. Shouldn't the unvaccinated accept responsibility for their own illness, death costs?


Dana Ripper

I’m a Missourian who frequently visits the wonderful state of New Mexico. Please, folks, don’t let your state turn out like mine.

Barry Rabkin

Unfortunately there is no vaccine for stupidity, idiocy, ignorance, or being an anti-vaxxer. I'd be fine with these people taking their own 'death march' if it wasn't for the scientific fact that viruses mutate and will attack and mutate within the pool of these idiots. The mutations could very likely impact those of us who are fully vaccinated. And no, no person has the 'freedom' to expose other people.

mark Coble

99.7 survival rate is not death march.

mark Coble

Survival rates for those under 75 with no co morbidities? Death rate for children under 6? Under 13? And I mean kids who are already not dying of a fatal disease. Experimental vaccine not needed for those of us who had covid, we have antibodies...but this "science" is ignored!

Obesity is the number one co morbidity yet....no one wants to quarantine them, why not? Why quarantine the healthy? For control and to eliminate small businesses.

Folks do NOT know the risk factor (once you factor out obesity, drug addiction, alcohol addiction or already dying from fatal disease of one kind or another) and blindly follow what ever they are told. "14 days to flatten the curve" was....a lie. Like you can change your gender or that the sun does not control our weather and climate.

Margaret Eyler

It's interesting to replace the subject of this article (getting a vaccination) with other phenomena that are also scientifically proven to kill (many more) people. Commenting on the decision-making of smokers, drinkers, hard-drug doers, people that don't exercise and overweight/OBESE people...an article like that wouldn't be allowed to run. Obesity accounts for 300,000 deaths EVERY YEAR. Cigarette smoking is responsible for 480,000 deaths EVERY YEAR. Instead of pointing your all-mighty righteous fingers at those "horrible/ignorant/selfish" people who choose not to get vaccinated, put this into perspective. The number of times someone has lectured me, "You should really get the vaccine" that I could reasonably, scientifically look back at them and say, "You should lose some weight."...I can't even count.

Mike Johnson

Thankfully in America, we still have personal choices about how to live our lives, and taking personal responsibility for our health and lifestyle, the state has not taken all our choices away....yet, but there are many who wish they would.

Barry Rabkin

And thankfully, after the FDA approves the vaccines officially to remove the 'emergency' attribute, companies can legally require their employees to be fully vaccinated.

Mike Johnson

I'm all for that Mr. Rabkin, and I do wonder what the problem is about doing it now, or last month. There is no scientific reason to withhold that approval.

Scott Smith

So following your logic public school children have a choice not to get vaccinated and get to remain in school? I don't think so Mike. How many vaccines did you receive as a child that had no ill effect on you? You could be crippled up with polio if not for a vaccine. Chew on that.

mark Coble

Those facts are suppressed. Goes against the fear and panic mandate.

Tom Hyland

The polarity of reactions, opinions, and beliefs is religious. We are talking pure RELIGION. This is what you BELIEVE. Many people believe there is a virus so deadly, of a toxic magnitude never seen before in the history of human existence, that you have to be tested to see if you have it. They believe anyone could be spreading death because of not wearing a mask. Others believe they possess an immune system that identifies and kills enemy invaders within their own bodies. I am a conspiracy theorist. I do not believe Oswald shot JFK. I have been lied to my entire life by government, corporations and news media who profit by making victims of their constituents and customers. I am an anti-vaxxer. I say it proudly. I am anti experimental vaccines that were never time-tested while real-time reports of people maimed and dying from these injections are growing daily. People will believe what they believe and there is nothing you can do to change their minds.

mark Coble

You are not alone Tom. Very logical. "My body, my choice". Well...not to the experimental shot folks. "Your body, their choice" is their message.

Mark Stahl

How many people do you know that have contacted polio recently? Smallpox? Measles? Diptheria? Vaccinations work.

Tom Hyland

Small pox... diptheria...measles... polio... these vaccines took many years to develop. The polio research began in the 1920's and the vaccine wasn't available until the 1950's. Every one of the several covid vaccines currently being administered were developed in only a few months. Pregnant women are getting jabbed and they carry a baby for nine months. What will happen to the newborn? This is all an experiment and people are the lab rats. EVERY vaccine manufacturer has been released of all liability if their potions cause injury or death. That's one reason the FDA will never qualify these spooky formulas. I am in the age group that I stand a 99.5% chance of survival if I should incur the covid virus. With odds like that I can't even begin to care about this flu that has injured or brought death to mostly the very old and the very obese. It's the vaccines that are killing people. Don't wait for the msm news to inform you of that.

Daniel Mathews

It’s because of people like this that we can’t have nice things.

Amy Earle

If the author were to ask for a show of hands who voted for Trump in these areas almost all hands would go up. Like all the Trump cultists around the country who refuse vaccination they have bought into absurd conspiratorial thinking. The excuses given are nonsensical. Government over reach? How is that exactly? The children’s mask burning is just charming. Teach your child to ignore health precautions and disbelieve science. If these people want to play Russian Roulette with their own lives I wouldn’t care but their selfish ignorance endangers everyone else. A lot of the unvaccinated are going to sick and each one that does has the potential to spawn an even more dangerous variant than the Delta one that could affect the vaccinated too. That is the infuriating part and the only reason it’s worth it for healthcare workers to give up their days to try and cajole these vaccine defiant to accept a shot. As for the farm workers who want a vaccination but are afraid because of their immigration status just give them a vaccination no questions asked.

Cheryl Odom

And yet, nowhere in this article is a single mention that this part of New Mexico almost always votes Republican.

Mike Johnson

And that does show how this is all about politics, isn't it?

Patrick Brockwell

All about politics, AND public health. The republican party has become anti science, anti social, anti government and anti democracy. As the party dies off it may soon be small enough to drown in a bathtub, to coin a phrase...

mark Coble

Sure seems so....along with STATE control and killing small businesses. Who profits? What is survival rate for healthy people? Questions are not appreciated as they go against STATE message of Fear! and Panic! Sure seems so...

Mike Johnson

Mr. Brockwell, "public health" is also a polarizing, divisive political concept. Left wing loves it, conservatives not so much if sacrificing your personal freedoms are the price to pay. And those on the left who want "public health", seem to be the ones who are fully vaccinated but still wearing masks and distancing as they do not trust the vaccine to fully protect them, so what is that about?

Philip Taccetta

Agreed! They are also the same ones that have prevented any meaningful action regarding climate change. If it had been tackled head on 40 years ago we wouldn’t be dealing with fires, drought and extreme weather events.

Anti science mentality has caused a world full of problems prolonged by ignorance and blindly following anti science politicians, especially that orange thing.

mark Coble

Survival rate?

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