ope体育SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — The mayor of New Mexico's largest city said Tuesday that he favors reopening nearly all businesses with precautions such as reduced indoor crowds, face coverings and COVID-19 screenings for workers.
ope体育In a town hall-style meeting by phone, Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller said he hopes to see the restrictions imposed to curb the spread of the coronavirus lifted in stages to allow nonessential businesses to start reopening within weeks if infections keep leveling off.
“We want to have all businesses open,” said Keller, a Democrat. “But how they open is important.”
State health officials on Tuesday reported the number of cases in New Mexico was approaching 3,000 while 110 people have died from the virus. Rural McKinley County leads with the most cases followed by Bernalillo County, the state's most populous area.
ope体育Keller's presentation offered clues about a possible statewide approach to ending closures. The mayor said he's talking with Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham's office as she decides on a strategy that guards against a resurgence of infections. Keller said state orders should trump any city decisions.
Shopping malls and businesses like barber shops and tattoo parlors where people are close together may pose special challenges, said Keller, adding that authorities are watching Colorado and Georgia for practical lessons as they restore nonessential areas of the economy.
“We might open up retail, but we might not open up Coronado Mall," Keller said, referring to New Mexico's most prominent indoor shopping center.
In an effort to bolster employment, Albuquerque has accelerated $70 million in construction projects that include road work, several community centers and a new public library — a burst of stimulus underwritten by the state.
Legislative leaders are anticipating the largest budget deficit in state history that could quickly deplete $1.3 billion in financial reserves. Government income is expected to nosedive as the pandemic and stay-at-home orders take a toll on tax revenue from sales and services and activity in the oil sector that typically provides for more than one-third of general fund spending.
Mayors including Martin Hicks of Grants, 80 miles (130 kilometers) west of Albuquerque, are encouraging businesses to defy the governor's lockdown.
Keller, who was previously state auditor and a lawmaker, said a coordinated, statewide approach to economic recovery is essential, noting that coronavirus patients are often transferred to Albuquerque for treatment.
ope体育“We should be thoughtful — anyone going rogue right now just winds up in Albuquerque's health care system,” he said.
Lujan Grisham has indicated that she'll extend New Mexico's through at least May 15, with some revisions.
Her business advisory commission on the pandemic is not subject to the state’s and its deliberations will be closed to the public, officials said.
ope体育Taxation and Revenue Department spokesman Charlie Moore said summaries will be provided of work by the so-called economic recovery council, which includes leaders from businesses ranging from a rural general store in Clayton to the San Francisco-based renewable energy developer Pattern Energy and New York-based mass media conglomerate NBCUniversal, a subsidiary of Comcast.
“We do not at this point plan on opening the group’s discussions to the public,” Moore said. “The Recovery Council is an advisory group only and for that reason not subject to Open Meetings Act requirements.”
ope体育A bipartisan council of mayors also is being assembled to provide advice through the governor’s chief of staff, John Bingaman. It was unclear which mayors will participate and if Keller will be a member.