Socorro County joins 23 other counties that are now classified as Turquoise.

Thanks to new criteria announced Wednesday by the New Mexico Department of Health, Socorro County’s color code has been recategorized back to Turquoise.

The DOH says the color-coded framework now includes a criterion that benefits counties as their vaccination rates improve, incorporating an essential new metric that reflects increasing vaccination rates in counties all across the state as more supply becomes available.

The return to Turquoise means:

  • Essential retail spaces: 75 percent of maximum capacity.
  • Food and drink establishments: 75 percent for indoor and outdoor dining.
  • All other businesses: 75 percent for indoors; no restrictions for outdoor.
  • Houses of worship: 100 percent.
  • Bars and clubs: 33 percent for indoor; 75 percent for outdoor.
  • Close-contact businesses: 75 percent for indoor.
  • Recreational facilities: 50 percent for indoor; 75 percent for outdoor.
  • Places of lodging: No maximum occupancy restrictions for those that have completed NM Safe Certified training; 50 percent of maximum occupancy for all others.
  • Mass gatherings limit: 150 persons, or 200 vehicles
  • Large entertainment venues: 33 percent for indoor; 75 percent for outdoor.

Neighboring Sierra County is also classified as Turquoise but Catron and Valencia counties remain at the Yellow level.

Additionally, counties that reach the Turquoise Level will move to a four-week update, as opposed to biweekly. In other words, once a county reaches the Turquoise Level they will maintain the Turquoise Level for at least the next four weeks, whereas up until now the time period between updates has been two weeks.

Previously, the health metrics were more restrictive; the new per-capita case rate was 8 per 100,000 inhabitants and the average new positivity rate was 5 percent. Vaccination rates were not part of the equation.

The redesigned health metrics used to determine a county’s risk level are:

 A new per-capita rate of new COVID-19 cases of no greater than 10 per 100,000 inhabitants over the most recent 14-day reporting period

 An average positivity rate less than or equal to 7.5 percent over the most recent 14-day reporting period

 A county with a fully vaccinated rate at or above a target, beginning at 35 percent as of April 30 and increasing to 40 percent for the regularly scheduled map update on May 5, that will increase 5 percent every other week as more vaccinations are completed

As an example, the vaccination rate metric will increase to 45 percent for the next biweekly map update on Wednesday, May 19.

In the meantime, the Department of Health has loosened the mask mandate for outdoor exercise and relaxed public health restrictions for much of the state.

Masks will no longer be required when exercising outdoors alone or with members of the same household or attending a small, outdoor gathering of fully vaccinated individuals no larger than the applicable mass gathering limit for the county or 20 individuals, whichever is less. 

Fully vaccinated individuals will no longer be required to wear a mask when attending small, outdoor gatherings of vaccinated or unvaccinated individuals no larger than the applicable mass gathering limit for the county or twenty 20 individuals, whichever is less. 

Regardless of vaccination status, masks continue to be required in any public indoor space, with the exception of while eating or drinking, and in any public outdoor space where numerous vaccinated and unvaccinated people from multiple households are in close proximity.

The state’s intent under the revised color-coded framework, meanwhile, remains to align a local area’s decreasing risk level with loosened requirements, and vice versa, and to balance the need to prevent another surge of viral spread with the need for standard localized “openness” amid this stage of the pandemic, as we approach an environment where restrictions can be relaxed to an even greater extent or entirely over the summer.

“I believe that New Mexico, by some time in June, will have fully vaccinated enough of our state that we can shed these restrictions and frameworks and instead move closer to a simpler new phase, from fighting to ultimately monitoring the pandemic,” Lujan Grisham said. “Where businesses and commercial and community activity can safely occur at the same open level all across the state. We are close and getting closer. But that all depends on New Mexicans continuing to get their shots when it’s their turn, so please register at vaccineNM.org and help us keep up the pace!”

She said New Mexico expects to have 60 percent of its adults fully vaccinated by June 30 – a standard that, if met, would allow the state to graduate out of its color-coded map of county-by-county restrictions.

Some regulations – such as an indoor mask requirement – are likely to remain, Lujan Grisham said, but the capacity limits and similar restrictions on businesses would be removed. In some counties, movie theaters have been closed for more than a year.

“In nine weeks, New Mexico, we are open,” Lujan Grisham said.

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