After two weeks of more effective COVID-19 precautions taken by residents, Socorro County has returned to the Yellow restriction level. The New Mexico Department of Health on Feb. 23 recalculated the county’s positivity rate at 2.39 percent for the 14 days of Feb. 9 through Feb. 22.
In the red-to-green system, a county qualifies for Yellow if daily cases averaged no greater than eight per 100,000, or test positivity less than or equal to five percent over two weeks.
Counties that meet both are considered green, while those that fall short of both are red.
As of Tuesday, the cumulative positive cases for Socorro County is 1,222 with 52 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic.
The state also announced it was recategorizing businesses that had previously been considered close-contact recreational facilities and were closed no matter a county’s color. Now, those businesses will be allowed to operate at limited capacities depending on their new category and the risk level of the county in which they operate.
And as of last Thursday, a new level in the color-coded risk system went in effect; the least restrictive to date. Turquoise is the fourth level, following Green, signifying when a county can ease even more pandemic-related restrictions.
According to Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s executive order, counties can reach that category by meeting certain health criteria for four consecutive weeks. The Turquoise Level includes provisions for expanded indoor dining, the operation of entertainment venues like theaters, bars and clubs, and more. This means significantly fewer restrictions on commercial and day-to-day activities.
State officials say 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.
The updated risk framework and public health order also includes the following changes:
- Businesses that had previously been categorized as close-contact recreational facilities, and closed at each level of the risk system (barbershops, hair salons, etc.) 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.
Counties at the Turquoise Level have both a new COVID-19 case incidence rate of no greater than 8 cases per 100,000 inhabitants during the most recent four-week period, and an average percent of positive COVID-19 test results over the most recent four-week period less than or equal to 5%.
“I know New Mexicans are tired of COVID-19. I am too,” Lujan Grisham said at her news conference on Feb. 25. “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. We’ve seen what happens when we ease up too quickly or let our guard down all at once – our hospitals fill back up and more New Mexicans lose their lives. We can and we must keep making safe choices in our day-to-day lives. We can introduce a little more risk, based on our progress, and start to feel a little bit closer to normal – but only if we keep making those safe choices to protect our families and one another. I know New Mexicans are up to the task.”
In the meantime, at the Yellow Level:
- Essential businesses (non-retail): No capacity restrictions but operations must be limited to only those necessary to carry out essential functions
- Essential retail spaces: 33 percent of maximum capacity, indoor and outdoor.
- Food and drink establishments that are 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.
- Large entertainment venues: 25 percent of the maximum capacity of any outdoor space on-premises; indoor not permitted with the limited exception of operating up to 25 percent of maximum capacity for recording and broadcasting entertainment without any in-person audience.
- Recreational facilities: 33 percent of any outdoor space on the premises; indoor not permitted.
- Bars and clubs: May not operate.
- All other businesses: 33 percent of maximum capacity, indoor and outdoor.
- 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 enclosed space on the premises.
- Places of lodging: 60 percent of maximum occupancy for those that have completed NM Safe Certified training; 25 percent of maximum occupancy for all others; five guests maximum for vacation rentals.
- Mass gatherings limit: 10 persons; 80 vehicles.