CORONAVIRUS

Doña Ana County back in the red for Covid-19

New Mexico modifies Red-Yellow-Green system

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The New Mexico Department of Health has updated statewide COVID-19 map for the two-week period beginning Feb. 24, with 19 New Mexico counties at the Yellow Level and six at the Green Level, at which there are fewer restrictions on commercial and day-to-day activities amid decreased virus risk.

Four counties reached the Turquoise Level, the newly designated least-restrictive level, and four counties were at the Red Level, signifying very high risk.

Every county in the state now reports a positivity rate below 10 percent, close to the threshold for moving to a less restrictive level.

The state’s county-by-county system uses key health metrics – the per-capita daily incidence of new COVID-19 cases and average COVID-19 test positivity within county borders – to determine the level of public health risk and requirement for each county. A county that meets one criterion may operate at the Yellow Level; a county that meets both may operate at the Green Level. A county that has met both for two consecutive biweekly map updates may operate at the Turquoise Level.

Counties that met neither of the health metric thresholds and must operate at the Red Level are: Doña Ana, Eddy, McKinley and Otero.

Counties that met one of the health metric thresholds and may operate at the Yellow Level beginning Feb. 24 are: Bernalillo, Chaves, Cibola, Colfax, Curry, Grant, Guadalupe, Hidalgo, Lea, Lincoln, Luna, Rio Arriba, Roosevelt, San Juan, San Miguel, Sandoval, Santa Fe, Socorro and Valencia.

Counties that met both of the health metric thresholds and may operate at the Green Level beginning Feb. 24 are: De Baca, Los Alamos, Mora, Quay, Taos and Torrance.

Counties that met both of the health metric thresholds for two consecutive biweekly map updates and may operate at the Turquoise Level beginning Feb. 24 are: Catron, Harding, Sierra and Union.

Doña Ana had reached the Yellow Level with a positivity rate of 4.33 percent as of Feb. 10 but regressed, with a positivity rate of 6.77 percent as of Feb. 24; in accordance with the operative public health order, a county that moves to a more restrictive level must begin operating at the more restrictive level within 2 days.

The state’s Red-Yellow-Green framework for aligning county-level requirements and guidelines with local virus risk has been modified to permit more day-to-day and commercial activities, reflecting the improving COVID-19 outlook across the state.

The framework includes a new least restrictive level where all categories of business can operate indoors with minimal occupancy limitations, depending on the risk level of the activity. A county will reach this least restrictive level, the Turquoise Level, by meeting key health criteria for two consecutive two-week periods and effectively graduating out of the Red-Yellow-Green framework, provided the virus remains suppressed.

“I know New Mexicans are tired of COVID-19 – I am too,” Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said. “We have made very solid progress in recent weeks and months, and we have all together saved lives and protected our family members and neighbors. We have to keep it up.”

The framework assigns a risk level – and corresponding color – to New Mexico counties based on key health metrics over a two-week timeframe. The health metrics – a test positivity rate below 5 percent and a new per-capita case rate of fewer than 8 per 100,000 – measure the incidence and spread of COVID-19 in a given community. A county that meets one of the criteria may operate at the Yellow Level; a county that meets both may operate at the Green Level; counties that meet neither of the criteria must operate at the Red Level.

As of Feb. 10, 14 counties are operating at the Red Level, signifying very high risk; 15 counties are operating at the Yellow Level, signifying high risk; and 4 counties are operating at the Green Level, signifying medium risk. The Department of Health updates the county-by-county map on a biweekly basis to account for an epidemiologically meaningful period of time. The most recent updated came on the afternoon of Wednesday, Feb. 24.

The county-by-county framework includes a new least-restrictive designation signifying low risk: The Turquoise Level. A county may operate at the Turquoise Level after having met both key health metrics for four weeks. In other words, a county that meets the criteria to operate at the Green Level for two consecutive biweekly map updates will elevate to the Turquoise Level, which includes significantly fewer restrictions on commercial and day-to-day activities.

The Turquoise Level includes provisions for expanded indoor dining, the operation of entertainment venues like theaters, bars and clubs and more.

The updated risk framework and public health order also include the following changes:

Businesses that had previously been categorized as “close-contact recreational facilities,” and closed at each level of the risk system, will be recategorized and permitted to operate at limited capacities depending on their new category and the risk level of the county in which they operate.

State parks, which had previously been open only for day-use for New Mexico residents, will now be open to camping with reservations and day-use for all.

LARGE ENTERTAINMENT VENUES, RECREATIONAL FACILITIES, BARS

Previously the state public health order had categorized certain businesses requiring longer periods of close contact among patrons as “close-contact recreational facilities,” which were closed at all risk levels.

Those businesses will be recategorized and permitted to operate in a manner that corresponds to the risk level of the county in which they operate, as outlined in the updated public health order:

“Large entertainment venues” are defined as any publicly or privately owned venue typically or actually used to host large audiences for the purposes of entertainment or amusement, including but not limited to racetracks, concert venues, movie theaters, performance venues, professional sports venues and theaters.

At the Turquoise Level, these venues may operate at up to 33 percent of maximum occupancy of any enclosed space on the premises, as determined by the relevant fire marshal or department, and up to 75 percent of maximum occupancy of any outdoor space on the premises.

At the Green Level, these venues may operate at up to 25 percent of maximum occupancy of any enclosed space on the premises, as determined by the relevant fire marshal or department, and up to 50 percent of maximum occupancy of any outdoor space on the premises.

At the Yellow Level, these venues may operate at up to 25 percent of any outdoor space on the premises but may not permit patrons to enter the indoor portions of the venue except for the limited purpose of using a restroom; employees may occupy the indoor portion of the facility to the extent necessary to operate the outdoor portion.

At the Red Level, these venues may not operate.

“Recreational facilities” are defined as any publicly or privately owned facility typically or actually used for recreational activities capable of bringing persons within close proximity of one another, including but not limited to aquariums, amusement parks, arcades, basketball courts, baseball fields, bowling alleys, botanical gardens, family entertainment centers, football fields, go-kart courses, golf courses, ice-skating rinks, museums with interactive displays or exhibits, miniature golf courses, ski areas, soccer fields, swimming pools, tennis courts, youth programs, trampoline parks and zoos.

At the Turquoise Level, these facilities may operate at up to 50 percent of the maximum occupancy of any enclosed space on the premises and up to 75 percent of the maximum occupancy of any outdoor space on the premises.

At the Green Level, these facilities may operate at up to 25 percent of the maximum occupancy of any enclosed space on the premises and up to 50 percent of the maximum occupancy of any outdoor space on the premises.

At the Yellow Level, these facilities may operate at up to 33 percent of maximum occupancy at any outdoor space on the premises; employees may occupy the indoor portion of the facility to the extent necessary to operate the outdoor portion.

At the Red Level, these facilities may operate at up to 25 percent of maximum occupancy of any outdoor space on the premises; employees may occupy the indoor portion of the facility to the extent necessary to operate the outdoor portion.

“Bars and clubs” are defined as any business that typically or actually generates more than half of its revenue from the sale of alcohol for on-premises consumption – including adult entertainment venues, nightclubs, and dance clubs, regardless of the source of their revenue.

At the Turquoise Level, bars and clubs may operate at up to 33 percent of the maximum occupancy of any enclosed space on the premises and up to 75 percent of any outdoor space on the premises.

At the Green Level, bars and clubs may operate at up to 25 percent of any outdoor space on the premises; employees may occupy the indoor portion of the facility to the extent necessary to operate the outdoor portion.

At the Yellow Level, bars and clubs may not operate.

At the Red Level, bars and clubs may not operate.