The cars circling the Capitol building at midday Monday made much less of an inconvenience for Santa Fe than the news choppers circling overhead.
Nonetheless, about 20 cars drove around Roundhouse for about an hour as part of New Mexico’s own “Operation Gridlock,” a movement to lift the stay-at-home orders and open the US economy during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In other cities, similar protests locked up streets for hours, even preventing ambulances from reaching hospitals. But in Santa Fe, which health officials last week called a “superstar” for social distancing, not enough cars participated to create any type of traffic jam, though helicopters loudly passed overhead.
Alexis Martinez Johnson, a Republican candidate for Congressional District 3, was the only participant who walked in front of the Capitol, pushing one of her children in a stroller. She and her four children wore bandannas around their faces.
"We think the governor has overreached her boundaries," she tells SFR. "It's the most strict regulations throughout the entire United States…As a mother of four children, I have the right to go into a gun store and purchase a firearm and ammunition to protect my children. I am not an extremist, I am not an activist, I am just a US citizen."
Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham took relatively early action against the spread of the virus, issuing a stay-at-home order on March 23 and a stricter one on April 7. New Mexico has had 1,971 cases and 58 known deaths from COVID-19.
In response to a news conference organized last week by members of the state Republican Party, Lujan Grisham penned an open letter to New Mexicans explaining why the state could not reopen yet.
“Opening prematurely means exposing many more New Mexicans to risk—and extending our economic pain,” Lujan Grisham wrote. “It also means dishonoring the thousands of doctors, nurses, and other essential personnel who are putting their lives on the line every day for their fellow New Mexicans. Reopening too quickly means sacrificing many of the things we care about most—and gaining little in return.”
After circling the Capitol, the protesters gathered in the parking lot across the street. Many wore MAGA merchandise and voiced similar sentiments to Johnson and Trump supporters across the country: The stay-at-home order is unconstitutional and deadly for small businesses; opening up the economy is the most important thing and there are worse things than the virus, such as abortion and other illnesses.
Terri Chrisman and Deborah Gowen told a small pool of reporters they believe counties without cases of the virus should completely reopen and those with less infections should be able to open, albeit more slowly.
“Social distancing will hurt more in the long run” than COVID-19 because of its effects on mental health, according to Gowen, and the state “should be opening slowly today…We know how to be responsible.”
About 3-4% of people with COVID-19 have died (the number of reported deaths divided by the reported cases) while the seasonal influenza is typically deadly for about 0.1% of those infected, according to the World Health Organization.
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