A sign installed along I-25 near Santa Fe is shown in this April 2020 file photo. Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham this week rescinded six pandemic-related executive orders. (Eddie Moore/Journal)



Copyright © 2022 Albuquerque Journal

SANTA FE – Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham quietly rescinded six executive orders related to the COVID-19 pandemic this week, but an order declaring a public health emergency due to the pandemic remains in effect more than two years after being issued.

Those rescinded Tuesday include an April 2020 order that – while in place – authorized more than 700 inmates to be released early from prison if they met such criteria as having a scheduled parole date within 30 days.

That order had been targeted in a TV ad launched last week by Republican Mark Ronchetti, who is running against Lujan Grisham in this year’s race for governor, but the Governor’s Office said the decision to rescind the order was not related to Ronchetti’s criticism.

“The Governor’s Office rescinded these pandemic-related executive orders as part of a periodic review of COVID-19 mitigation measures, to ensure state resources and policy are up to date and as reflective as possible of evolving conditions and guidance,” Lujan Grisham spokeswoman Nora Meyers Sackett said Friday.

She also said the March 2020 order declaring a public health emergency in New Mexcio due to COVID-19 was left in place because it gives the state access to federal funding for public health programs, food assistance and more.

Going forward, the Lujan Grisham administration plans to continue to review pandemic-related health orders to make sure they are still necessary, Sackett said.

Meanwhile, the other orders rescinded this week included a 2021 order that expanded eligibility to all adults age 18 and older to receive a COVID-19 vaccine booster shot.

Another rescinded order, also from 2021, had recommended – but not required – COVID-19 testing and a 14-day quarantine period for all travelers entering New Mexico.

Under New Mexico’s current law, public health orders expire automatically after 30 days – if they’re not ended sooner – but can be renewed by the governor an unlimited number of times.

Several legislative proposals to curb the governor’s emergency powers have stalled at the Roundhouse in the past two years, with Senate Democratic leadership in 2021 declining to bring a bill that had passed two committees with bipartisan support up for a floor vote.

While some lawmakers argued the state’s current laws give the governor too much power, Lujan Grisham said last year she would veto such a bill if it reached her desk.

Specifically, she said the fact New Mexico is a “centralized public health state” was a key reason her administration was able to respond quickly to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Since the pandemic began, New Mexico ranks around the middle of states in terms of per-capita COVID-19 cases, but has one of the nation’s highest death rates due to the virus, according to data tracking by The New York Times.