Socorro firefighter Humberto Lucero administers a coronavirus vaccine last Thursday at the Rodeo and Fairgrounds. Every Thursday, the New Mexico Department of Health along with the Socorro Fire Department will be hosting a vaccine clinic. Patients must be registered online to receive their vaccine. Caitie Ihrig | El Defensor Chieftain

Socorro received some encouraging news last week with the release of new data that allows local restaurants and businesses a smidgen more economic breathing room. As a result of a lowered positivity rate, the New Mexico Department of Health on Jan. 27 recategorized Socorro County COVID-19 level from Red to Yellow.
Although still defined as “high risk,” counties at the Yellow level have either a new COVID-19 case incidence rate of no greater than eight cases per 100,000 during the most recent two-week period, or an average percent of positive coronavirus test results over the most recent 14-day period less than or equal to 5 percent.
Socorro County’s most recent positivity rate is 3.56 percent. Neighboring Sierra County is also Yellow, with 4.55 percent positivity, but Catron and Valencia Counties remain Red with 6.75 percent.
The move from red to yellow means local businesses may increase the number of customers allowed at one time, and restaurants may return to limited indoor dining.
What this means:
Food and drink establishments can allow indoor dining at 25 percent of maximum capacity and 75 percent of maximum capacity
for patio dining. This is an improvement over no indoor dining and 25 percent for outdoor dining under the Red level.
Essential retail spaces, including grocery stores, supermarkets, food banks, and farmers’ markets can now allow 33 percent of maximum capacity. Up from 25 percent.
Close-contact businesses such as barbershops and hair salons still are limited to 25 percent of maximum capacity but can now allow 20 customers at one time. This is an improvement of the previous 10 customers at one time.
Non-retail essential businesses have no capacity restrictions but operations must be limited to only those absolutely necessary to carry out essential functions.
All other businesses are limited to 25 percent of maximum capacity or 125 customers at one time, whichever is smaller.
Houses of worship may hold indoor religious services at 33 percent of the maximum capacity. An improvement over the previous 25 percent.
Places of lodging are allowed to increase to 60 percent of maximum occupancy, up from the previous 40 percent, for those that have completed NM Safe Certified training. Those without NM Safe Certified Training remain at 25 percent. There is a five guest maximum for vacation rentals.
Outdoor recreational facilities such as golf courses, youth programs, and youth livestock shows remain limited to 25 percent of maximum capacity.
Close-contact recreational facilities include indoor movie theaters and museums remain closed.
Mass gatherings are limited to 10 persons or 80 vehicles, versus the previous five persons or 40 vehicles.
Traveling restrictions, for the most part, correspond with the red-to-green system.
Persons who have arrived in New Mexico from states with a 5 percent positivity rate or greater over a seven-day rolling average, or a positive test rate greater than 80 per 1 million residents, must physically separate from others for at least 14 days.
By the same token, persons arriving from states with under a 5 percent positivity rate and a positive test rate lower than 80 per 1 million are not required to self-quarantine. Selfquarantine is still advised for persons arriving from these states, and persons arriving from these lower-risk states are advised to be tested for COVID-19 within five to seven days of their arrival in the state.
The tiered color-coded county-by-county COVID19 risk system went into effect on December 2 and was extended by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham on January 29. The statewide mask mandate remains in place.

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