BY GOVERNOR MICHELLE LUJAN GRISHAM
On Thursday, I talked about Española in my statewide public briefing on our response to COVID-19. I mentioned that I drove through the valley recently on my way to El Rito. And I said that I saw no one in the community wearing masks as I drove through, and I made an example of that in my presentation.
My comments were taken as a lack of respect for Española and the work the community has done to fight this virus. I apologize for making that impression. That was not my intent, and I take responsibility for the way my words were conveyed and heard.
It is true that I did not see any masks that day on my way through town north and south, but that doesn’t mean I should have made the point that I did in the way I did it. If my intent was to highlight where we can improve and what we can do better, and it was, then I could have communicated that in a different way, and I should have.
I have highlighted other communities in the state where we can and must do better in responding to COVID-19. My intent is always to encourage us all to do better and, whenever I can, praise the success different communities have had. I didn’t do that here. On Thursday, I could have talked about the thousands (and thousands, and thousands) of Española Valley workers, businessowners and families who have sacrificed and made the right decisions to keep themselves and their community safe day after day this year. I know the people of the Española Valley have given so much. Instead I only focused on what I saw, the negative, and I hope my comments – and the response to them – do not ultimately overshadow the commitment and sacrifice so many residents of the valley have made.
I saw what I saw, but what I saw was only a snapshot in time. Yes, not wearing a mask for any amount of time in public increases the risk you will contract the virus or be exposed to droplets from another person. But the fact of the matter is Rio Arriba County has done very well in suppressing the virus. Masks have been a key part of that.
I have heard from constituents in the valley. I want them all to know: What I presented was not necessarily a complete representation of the hard work you have undertaken ever since COVID-19 hit our state. Please keep up that hard work. I am so grateful to you. I wish I had said that, as well, on Thursday.
Española is a proud town, and I love that. It’s the fighting, never-say-die spirit of the valley that makes it one of the most beautiful places in this beautiful state, with some of the best people, families with deep roots, folks with a hard-working attitude, neighbors with a helping hand for anyone who needs one. Those are values worth fighting for, worth being proud of.
It’s no wonder that folks like that will stand right up and be proud of their home community. It’s also no wonder folks like that have worked as hard as they have to fight COVID-19 and keep their neighbors safe. I regret that my words left the impression they did. Please accept my apology for that, and please know that your efforts in fighting COVID-19 are so important and are making an enormous difference for our state.”