Yellow is not very mellow this time around.

After several weeks of low daily infection numbers – allowing restaurants and merchants to see a steady increase in business – a spike of 41 COVID-19 cases in a recent one-week period has set Socorro County back from the Turquoise level to Yellow, resulting in restrictions once thought were part of the past.

The move from Turquoise to Yellow –bypassing the less restrictive Green Level – means local businesses will have to again curtail the number of customers allowed inside at one time, and indoor dining at restaurants will have to once again be restricted to one third of capacity.

Counties at the Yellow Level have either a new COVID-19 case incidence rate of no greater than 8 cases per 100,000 inhabitants during the most recent two-week period, or an average percent of positive COVID-19 test results over the most recent 14-day period less than or equal to 5 percent.

According to the New Mexico Department of Health, in the most recent two-week period – April 6 through April 19 – the county’s positivity rate jumped from 0.46 percent to 2.22 percent putting in Yellow territory.

What this means between now and May 3:

  • Essential businesses (non-retail): No capacity restrictions but operations must be limited to only those absolutely necessary to carry out essential functions.
  • Essential retail spaces: 33 percent of maximum capacity (indoor and outdoor)
  • Food and drink establishments (if NM Safe Certified): 33 percent of maximum capacity for indoor dining; 75 percent of maximum capacity for outdoors dining; any establishment serving alcohol must close by 10 p.m. each night.
  • Close-contact businesses: 33 percent of maximum capacity or 20 customers at one time, whichever is smaller; 33 percent of any outdoor space on the premises
  • Houses of worship: May hold religious services, indoors or outdoors, or provide services through audiovisual means, but may not exceed 33 percent of the maximum capacity of any enclosed space on the premises; may operate at 100 percent capacity outdoors
  • Places of lodging: 60 percent of maximum occupancy for those that have completed NM Safe Certified training; 33 percent of maximum occupancy for all others; 5 guests maximum for vacation rentals
  • Bars and clubs: May not operate
  • Mass gatherings limit: 10 persons
  • Recreational facilities: 33 percent of any outdoor space on the premises; indoor not permitted
  • All other businesses: 33 percent of maximum capacity (indoor and outdoor)

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.

Nine counties, in addition to Socorro, regressed to the Yellow Level: Catron, Chaves, Eddy, Harding, Lincoln, Rio Arriba, and Sierra. Colfax moved to the Red Level.

Five counties advanced to a less restrictive level since the most recent biweekly map update including Cibola, Guadalupe, Hidalgo, Otero and San Miguel.

According to healthcare officials, the way to move back into the Green or Turquoise levels is to follow the basic guidelines; wear a mask in public, observe social distancing of six feet, and wash hands frequently.