By KIRSTEN LASKEY
Los Alamos Daily Post
The resolution calling on the Governor and state health officials to end the school and business lockdown failed to pass during Tuesday night’s Los Alamos County Council meeting.
Councilor David Reagor introduced the resolution. The motion to pass the resolution failed to pass 1-6 with Reagor casting the sole vote in favor of it.
According to the resolution, the lockdown should end to ensure the “social and mental health of the Los Alamos community”.
Furthermore, Reagor argued in his resolution that the public health orders and school closures “cause significant harm to low-income students with poor internet service and have shown in other states to have little benefit”.
Plus, “vaccinations of high risk groups are underway and other groups have little to no risk of a severe case” of the virus, according to the resolution.
In addition to lifting the public health orders, Reagor’s resolution proposed:
- Speeding up vaccinations of high-risk groups;
- Providing additional funds for mental health services; and
- Modifying existing orders and policies to lift restrictions on businesses and to allow schools to open.
Reagor explained the lockdown was created by people who are economically privileged enough to be unaffected by it but others such as those in the service industry suffer.
“Lockdowns are typically imposed by people that are throughout the state government and throughout local governments that really don’t have personal costs from any of the loss of economic opportunities,” he said. “All of the costs are then transferred to certain people in the community who are caught in the lockdown … the people making the decisions and imposing these lockdowns are always immune from any suffering that comes from the lockdowns. So then the persons who take all the brunt are waitresses, waiters, chefs and people like that…”
Reagor added that for people to return to work, they need the schools to reopen. Plus, they deserve the basic services that they pay taxes for.
The public’s reception toward the resolution was mixed. It ranged from support to arguing that the resolution was full of falsehoods and lies.
Los Alamos resident Trey Pereyra said he felt the Los Alamos Public Schools should be able to weigh in on the resolution.
“I think it is a bit of an overstep for the County Council to put Los Alamos Public Schools in a resolution since our school board has not weighed in on this … our school board has not had the opportunity to weigh in on the impact this resolution could have on Los Alamos Public Schools,” he said.
The resolution also did not earn support from most of the council.
Councilor Sean Williams said he does not want to diminish the impact COVID has had – to date, the virus has killed 2.5 million people worldwide, which includes a half-million U.S. citizens. However, Williams said he did recognize the virus affects the poor more than the rich. While he said he did not feel there was a strong argument that the lockdown causes more economic damage than letting the pandemic run free, Williams said he felt there are issues that council should discuss and find concrete solutions.
Councilor Denise Derkacs said they should trust the experts.
“All of us recognize the impacts of the state health restrictions … however, the state restrictions are based on the collection of COVID data and CDC recommendations,” she said. “Some of the statements, claims that are in the proposed resolution regarding risks to specific groups, I don’t believe are accurate and I cannot support the resolution as written.”
Councilor Sara Scott also said she did not support the resolution but urged the County to continue to work within the existing government framework and use existing mechanisms such as the mayor’s council and communication with the governor and health officials.
This is a conversation worth having, Council Vice Chair James Robinson said. He said he appreciated the resolution focused on the first responders, health workers and service workers. He added hopefully, the lessons learned from this pandemic can be used moving forward because this wasn’t the first pandemic, and it will not be the last.
“I think we need to stick to what science is guiding us to do now…,” Robinson said.
Council Chair Randall Ryti agreed.
“We’re not the public health experts,” he said.
However, Ryti said there is the opportunity to provide feedback to the state officials and offer suggestions on where to make changes.
It’s a tough subject, Councilor David Izraelevitz said.
“I think Los Alamos County did all it could to redirect funds that were received from the federal government to different areas,” he said. “I think that some of the assumptions in the resolution … people can decide what they want to do – I don’t think that is fully reflective of people’s choices. Some people don’t have a choice about staying home or not, some people are vulnerable themselves or have vulnerable family members they take care of … it’s a complicated problem ….”
But it’s not a problem that Los Alamos can address on its own and solely looking out for individual interests means failure for everyone, Izraelevitz said.
“Rely on personal individual freedoms … this is one of the cases of … everybody looks at their self-interests and everyone loses,” he said.