ALBUQUERQUE, NM (AP) — New Mexico already has the highest U.S. unemployment rate and state Republican legislative leaders said Thursday they fear President Joe Biden’s plans for vaccinations or COVID-19 testing for large employers This could cause more damage to the job market. of a poverty-stricken state.
Republican leader of the New Mexico Senate, Greg Baca, said the mandate was fueling more mistrust of the federal government and urged Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham to back down against federal redundancies.
“We are already facing a significant employee shortage,” he told the Associated Press in an email. “This excessive policy could prove to be the final nail in the coffin for many more local businesses.”
The US Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s requirements made public Thursday that employees of companies with 100 or more employees be vaccinated or tested weekly by January 4. Failure to comply can result in a fine of approximately $14,000 per violation.
Federal officials also left open the possibility of expanding the mandate to smaller employers.
More than a dozen Republican attorney generals in other states have said they will fight the requirements.
In New Mexico, the legislative session beginning in January is limited to budget issues. Republican lawmakers said it is possible that one or more bills could be introduced to provide relief to force local businesses to comply with federal and state mandates.
New Mexico’s Democrat-dominated state government was one of the hardest-hitters to vaccinate adults.
Interest in vaccination has waned since then and the state’s vaccination rate has remained stagnant at less than 73%. State officials announced On Wednesday they aim to vaccinate more than 50% of children aged 5 to 11 as part of the latest campaign.
Lujan Grisham’s public health order already requires shots for state workers, health care workers and teachers, which account for the majority of state workers. But some critics have questioned whether his administration can go ahead and need booster shots as immunity wanes in the state.
“Right now our focus is on MLG (the governor) and the mandates he has already placed and the potential mandates,” said Artesia’s House GOP leader Jim Townsend. “New Mexicans just want to get back to their lives, but continue to run into power-hungry politicians at every turn.”
The governor’s office did not comment directly on the federal vaccine requirement. State health department officials have said there has been no discussion on whether the state would consider reimposing stricter public health mandates or expanded vaccine requirements.
Governor’s spokeswoman Nora Meyers Sackett said Thursday that New Mexico has one of the highest vaccination rates in the West. Sackett said the state aims to get more people vaccinated and immunization of young children would be a big step.
New Mexico Republican Party President Steve Pierce described the federal vaccine mandate for employers as “a blatant violation of our civil liberties.”
“Threatening employees who do not comply is even more dangerous and humiliating,” he said. “Americans have the right to choose, and this is another violation of our constitutional rights.”
Confirmed COVID-19 cases are creeping back in New Mexico despite high vaccination rates and masks being mandatory for indoor public spaces. Shows state data There have been more than 22,000 confirmed infections in the past month, including infections among vaccinated people..
The state’s Secretary of Health and Human Services, Dr. David Schreese, pointed to the infectious nature of the Delta variant on Wednesday as a factor driving the boom. He said that all areas of the state are witnessing a spurt in infection and community spread remains at a high level across the state.