The Otero County Commission at its April 8 meeting will consider a resolution which proposes that all public buildings, private businesses and other public gathering spaces in the county operate as normal, in violation of New Mexico’s emergency public health orders.
The resolution, proposed by Commissioner Couy Griffin, would declare Otero County 100% open for business, pointing to the U.S. Constitution and New Mexico Constitution as proof the orders are invalid.
“This will be a great day for Otero County when we push back on the Unconstitutional Coronavirus mandates,” Griffin said via email.
Resolutions do not hold the weight of law as an ordinance would. Instead resolutions show a political entity’s support or understanding of a situation. This resolution states Otero County offices may reopen to pre-COVID-19 standards and that the use of face coverings is no longer mandatory.
“All businesses, organizations, schools, and other institutions in Otero County are hereby requested to reopen to their normal occupancy,” the resolution states. “Decisions on opening, face masks and social distancing shall be at the sole discretion of the management of each entity.”
As of March 31, Otero County reported 3,618 positive COVID-19 cases. Seventy-two deaths in the county were attributed to COVID-19.
The resolution also calls for the Otero County Sheriff’s Office to assist local businesses and entities with resisting the public health orders “whether that enforcement is by state or federal authorities.”
Otero County commissioners have a history of supporting resolutions that challenge the state’s mandatory public health orders. In a March 11 meeting, commissioners passed a resolution that called the orders unconstitutional on a series of grounds, including allegations that the governor’s emergency powers were meant for short-term issues and that “the use by state officials of emergency power for extended periods is antidemocratic and is danger to the rights of the people,” the resolution reads.
The March 11 resolution passed unanimously as did a similar resolution in August 2020.
However, the state Supreme Court has upheld the state’s authority to impose the public health mandates.