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As regional businesses reopen, many in Farmington remain closed

Governor keeps restrictions in place for northwest New Mexico
Nonessential businesses in San Juan County remain closed because of Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s May 1 public health order. The order is set to expire Friday, unless she extends it.

FARMINGTON – While nonessential businesses in Durango and most of New Mexico begin to reopen, restrictions in San Juan County remain in place. A new survey shows Farmington business owners are still being hit hard by the closures but are prepared to implement safety procedures to reopen.

San Juan County – along with McKinley and Cibola counties, also in northwest New Mexico – were excluded from Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s May 1 order loosening restrictions on nonessential businesses.

“It’s extremely frustrating,” said President and CEO of the Farmington Chamber of Commerce Jamie Church about the business restrictions still in place for San Juan County. “We’re in an interesting region, being only 40 minutes from the state line and having Durango be open.”

The Farmington Chamber of Commerce released the results of its survey conducted from April 15 to April 28 about how local businesses are coping with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. The survey was a follow-up to one conducted in late March.

The survey showed 83% of the 191 respondents said they would be able to implement safety precautions, such as limiting the number of customers in a store at one time and requiring customers to wear masks if allowed to reopen.

“Our business owners would be more than willing and ready to implement all of the hygiene and safety protocols. To be left out of the reopening plans (for New Mexico) is very frustrating,” Church said.

She added some local business owners like Ace Hardware of Farmington have even announced they would donate face coverings for local businesses to ensure all employees are protected.

Twenty-three percent of business owners said business was down 70% to 90%, compared with only 13% who answered similarly in the first survey.

When asked how the COVID-19 pandemic was affecting their business, 23% of respondents said they had closed or would be closing their doors until further notice. In the first survey, 24% respondents said they had closed or would be closing until further notice.

“Some Chamber members are at the end here,” Church said. “If they can’t get (their business) open in some fashion, they’re not sure they’re going to be able to reopen.”

Church said she was encouraged that 60% of respondents said they had not laid off any employees, although she acknowledged that could have changed in the past few weeks.

“I’m surprised that number wasn’t a bit higher, but it might be because of the PPP loans,” she said, referring to the Paycheck Protection Program loans, part of the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act.

The public health order in place for San Juan, McKinley and Cibola counties is set to expire Friday, and Lujan Grisham’s office has said she will hold a news conference Wednesday with updates. Church and others are hopeful nonessential businesses in San Juan County will be able to begin the process of reopening.

“The longer this goes on, the harder it’ll be to reopen,” she said.

lweber@durangoherald.com

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