SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — The statewide total of COVID-19 infections in New Mexico neared 11,000 on Wednesday as health officials reported an additional 156 positive tests and four more deaths.
The latest cases come as the state eases restrictions on some segments of the economy, including allowing breweries, restaurants, gyms and salons to open at limited capacities.
Members of the American Legion, the Veterans of Foreign Wars and other organizations have been putting pressure on Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham to consider allowing veterans' posts to open.
A group of about 20 members of private clubs and fraternal orders gathered outside the shuttered state Capitol on Wednesday to urge the governor to lift the restrictions on their organizations from the COVID-19 closure order.
Windy Townsend, the canteen manager of VFW Post 7686 in Alamogordo, recently wrote to Lujan Grisham, a Democrat, to consider letting her post open. Townsend explained that the posts are places where veterans feel safe and can find resources such as help with utility bills and food bank items.
“The virus is a very real crisis. But we need to factor in everything,” Townsend told Albuquerque television station KRQE.
In Santa Fe, a 101-year-old American Legion post that was created just a year after the end of World War I and seven years after New Mexico became a state, is struggling for survival.
Top officers at the post told the Santa Fe New Mexican that Post 1 may have to vacate its building because health-related closures are preventing them from paying the rent and other bills that have been piling up since March.
“It’s an anxious time, not knowing exactly if we’ll get the word that we’re going to be able to open,” said Pat Patterson, the post’s adjutant.
The governor's office classifies the veterans' posts as bars so they aren't in line to reopen until a later phase that has been outlined by the Lujan-Grisham administration. The state's pace also depends on whether people continue to observe social distancing guidelines and wear masks to keep the rate of spread from increasing.
The latest figures show Bernalillo County — the state's most populous county — had the highest number of new cases Wednesday, topping McKinley and San Juan counties. Those two more rural counties account for about half of the state's total cases.