Chamber of Commerce Urges Local Officials to Increase COVID Testing

In a letter dated December 8th, the Chamber of Commerce of Truth or Consequences and Sierra County called upon local officials to support a “Get Tested” public campaign to encourage all Sierra County residents to get tested regularly for COVID-19. Addressed to the commissioners and managers of Truth or Consequences and Elephant Butte, in addition to the Governing Board of Sierra Vista Hospital, the letter cites New Mexico’s “Red to Green” reopening system that rewards a low test positivity rate with relaxed restrictions on business and social activity.

The “Red to Green” system allows a county with a 14-day positivity rate less than 5% to move from “Red” to “Yellow”, which allows stores, restaurants, and places of lodging to open up to more customers. Sierra County’s most recent positivity rate was 11.8%. Each county’s positivity rate is calculated and published every two weeks, with the next update expected on December 16th.

Johns Hopkins University, which is leading a global effort to study COVID-19 health data, states that “A high percent positive means that more testing should probably be done—and it suggests that it is not a good time to relax restrictions… there are two ways to lower the percent positive: Reduce the amount of coronavirus transmission or increase the number of people who get tested.”

According to the Economic Development Department’s COVID hotline for businesses, increasing testing is an effective tactic a local government can pursue to reopen its economy.

The Chamber’s letter is expected to be presented at the regular meeting of the Governing Board of Sierra Vista Hospital today, Thursday December 10th, at noon. Interested parties can listen to the meeting by calling 1-901-443-7201 and entering the code: 711 050 895#

The full text of the Chamber’s letter to local officials is below:

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the world in 2020, in almost all instances with a negative impact. The livelihoods of citizens and establishments around the globe had suffered exponentially. Sierra County residents and businesses are no exception.

The current New Mexico “Red to Green” county by county framework imposes many limitations on our state. We all want to enjoy a meal in a restaurant, see our lines at our store entrances disappear, enjoy the reopening of our closed businesses, and most importantly, see our local work force doing just that, working.

To move into the yellow phase, we need to either lower the positivity rate to 5% or have fewer than 8 positive cases per 100,000 inhabitants in a 14-day period. To this end we want to achieve this goal through a “Get Tested” campaign. We need help in spreading the word to our local business owners and residents to get tested. We want to encourage everyone in our community to participate, not just those that feel symptomatic or are asked to through contact tracing. The more people that get tested, the lower our positivity rate will become. We also want to encourage everyone to get tested weekly to make sure we meet the gating criteria to remain yellow with a long-range goal to be green.

Spreading the word that testing can be non-invasive, FREE and quick and easy at the Sierra Vista Hospital. That increased testing will not only lower our positivity rate to help us achieve yellow status, but will identify asymptomatic carriers who will then quarantine and slow the spread.

We need your help with public statements to our community through newspaper, radio and social media. Not only for a “Get Tested” campaign, but to follow the CDC and the state of New Mexico COVID-19 guidelines so that we can once again be what our Sierra County residents and visitors remember and hope to experience again soon.

We all have the same end goal – GREEN. And we need your active participation to make this happen. On behalf of the Truth or Consequences and Sierra County Chamber of Commerce Members, we ask our county and city officials to become involved with these efforts.

Thank you,
On behalf of the Truth or Consequences and Sierra County Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors and 140+ Chamber members