In March 2020, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham took control of our lives with the stroke of her pen. At the time, she assured us her administration’s limitless power was accountable to “the science” and that she would use data to drive her policies. As we emerge from the pandemic, the questions on my mind are: Were the governor’s draconian restrictions effective, and were they actually based on science? Recent statistics and revelations from the Department of Health suggest they were not.
Despite having the toughest lockdown and masking restrictions in the country, New Mexico ranks 14th in COVID-19 deaths per capita. Further, during a February hearing, the governor’s Health Department secretary testified to what many New Mexicans already suspected. The Rio Grande Foundation published the transcript of the hearing and highlighted some key insights from the testimony. This is what we learned:
The Department of Health did not consider the economic impact of lockdowns in crafting its public health orders.
- DOH cannot explain why Florida and Texas, which are not locked down, have lower COVID-19 fatality rates than New Mexico.
- DOH does not take into consideration other adverse health impacts, like increased depression, suicide and childhood obesity in crafting the orders.
- The health secretary placed significant reliance on her department’s legal staff when crafting the public health orders. She does not know if any of those lawyers have any training or education in public health.
- The secretary is unaware of any scientific studies that support the specific restrictions, prohibitions and permitted activities under the public health orders.
- The secretary cannot say whether the risk from COVID-19 must be zero before the orders will end.
The bottom line is New Mexicans suffered because of our governor’s unwillingness to let go of her power and listen to the science. As recently as last week, commonsense considerations such as recovered positive cases were still not considered part of a county’s level of immunity. Now, in an apparent admission of her failed policies and reopening framework, the governor wants to fully reopen in July.
I’d like to look beyond the economic decimation caused by the public health orders. I believe the true invisible enemy of the past year was not COVID-19 but fear and distrust of one another. Our governor was so fixated on politics and power that she infected our state with a fear and disenfranchisement epidemic that will outlast the pandemic for years to come. This contagious fear and distrust of our fellow New Mexicans will take decades if not generations to overcome.
Sadly, there is no remediation or vaccine that can mitigate the effects of the “Lujan Lockdown” on our state. Our only hope is to hold this governor accountable at the ballot box. Vote for leaders who will heal the wounds this administration has left on our economy and society.
We know which party has wrecked New Mexico. We’ve got 100 years of case study of what doesn’t work. Now it’s time for the people of New Mexico to follow the data — unlike what I believe this governor did — and chart a new course.