New Mexico introduces new Turquoise level to its COVID-19 restrictions map
Restrictions eased on some businesses and public spaces
This story was updated with clarification from the governor's office at 5:44 p.m.
SANTA FE – New Mexico loosened some public health restrictions on business and public activities Wednesday, adjusting the state's framework of public health orders based on county-level prevalence of COVID-19 and test positivity.
Additionally, the state has added a color to its red-yellow-green scheme measuring county-level transmission of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, a step Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham had predicted in her most recent news conference on the pandemic response.
The new Turquoise level will indicate the lowest level of restrictions on business activity and gathering.
The changes reflect declines in average daily cases and progress with vaccinations statewide, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham's office said.
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“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," the governor stated in a press release. "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.”
On a biweekly basis, the state Department of Health upgrades its color-coded county map based on each county's COVID-19 data. The latest update was anticipated for Wednesday afternoon.
Any county with both a test positivity rate below 5 percent and a daily per-capita case rate below eight per 100,000 operates at the green level of public health restrictions. A county meeting one of those criteria is yellow, or red if the county meets neither.
Prior to the update, 14 of the state's 33 counties were red, 15 yellow and four green.
What Turquoise level means
Per Wednesday's announcement, counties move to the least restrictive Turquoise level after meeting both the criteria for green status for four weeks, equivalent to two map updates.
That means a new, lower level of restrictions on commercial and public life — more indoor dining and the reopening of theaters, bars and clubs.
The limit on mass gatherings increases to 150 people, or 200 vehicles as applicable.
Essential businesses other than retail spaces operate without occupancy limitations, but still must limit personnel to what is necessary for essential operations.
Essential retail graduates to operating at 75 percent of maximum fire code capacity for enclosed spaces, or 100 percent for outdoor spaces.
Places of worship may welcome 75 percent of their fire code capacity.
Large entertainment venues — including racetracks, concert and performance venues, theaters and cinemas and professional sports venues — may welcome patrons at 33 percent of indoor capacity or 75 percent outdoors.
Bars and clubs may also welcome customers at 33 percent indoor capacity or 75 percent outdoor capacity, and otherwise follow requirements for food and drink establishments.
Food and drink establishments may only provide indoor dining services after completing the state's safety certification program. They are required to screen customers and staff for symptoms of COVID-19 disease and maintain logs for contact tracing purposes for three weeks. They may then operate at 75 percent capacity for dine-in, with no more than six patrons seated at a table and tables spaced at least six feet apart, while bar and counter seating remain prohibited. All venues can accommodate customers at 75 percent outdoor capacity and offer carry-out and delivery services.
Places of lodging may open up to 100 percent capacity if they have completed the safety certification course, or 50 percent if not. Properties operated as vacation rentals can accommodate up to 15 guests. These limits exclude healthcare providers, people on extended stays or who are quarantining.
Other entities (including gyms and group fitness classes) can operate at 75 percent of their indoor capacity or 100 percent outdoors.
Close contact facilities, parks
In yellow counties, close-contact facilities — such as barber shops, salons, tattoo parlors, spas and massage therapy services — may operate at 33 percent occupancy or 20 customers, whichever is less. In red counties, those limits are 25 percent or 10 customers.
State parks are open for day-use and camping with reservations, for all — dropping the previous restriction to New Mexico residents only.
Under the new public health order, racetracks, concert and performance venues, theaters and cinemas, and professional sports venues are still closed in red counties, but at higher levels, things begin to open up.
- Turquoise: 33 percent capacity indoors, or 75 percent outdoors.
- Green: 25 percent capacity indoors, or 50 percent outdoors.
- Yellow: 25 percent capacity outdoors only, staff inside as necessary.
- Red: Venues remain closed.
Recreational facilities — such as aquariums and zoos, amusement parks, bowling alleys or athletic fields or courts, swimming pools, botanical gardens, golf or mini-golf courses, ice-skating rinks, museums with interactive displays or exhibits, begin to open up as well.
- Turquoise: up to 50 percent occupancy indoors, or 75 percent outdoors.
- Green: up to 25 percent occupancy indoors, or 50 percent outdoors.
- Yellow: 33 percent occupancy outdoors only, staff indoors as necessary.
- Red: 25 percent occupancy outdoors only, staff indoors as necessary.
Bars and clubs
- Turquoise: 33 percent maximum occupancy indoors, 75 percent outdoors.
- Green: 25 percent outdoors, staff indoors as necessary.
- Yellow or Red: Bars and clubs remain closed.
Food and drink (SAFE certified)
- Turquoise: 75 percent occupancy indoors and outdoors.
- Green: 50 percent indoors, 75 percent outdoors.
- Yellow: 33 percent indoors, 75 percent outdoors; places serving alcohol close by 10 p.m.
- Red: 25 percent outdoors only; places serving alcohol close by 9 p.m.
Reactions to new public health order
In a statement, New Mexico Tourism Secretary Jen Paul Schroer said: "New Mexico's hospitality and tourism industry has made incredible sacrifices throughout this pandemic in order to protect fellow New Mexicans. And because of those sacrifices, New Mexico can now truly look forward to the prospects of a reopened tourism economy."
Republicans in the state Legislature, who had sought adjustments to the Red to Green framework, welcomed the changes but maintained small businesses needed more leeway and lamented the lack of indoor dining in Red counties.
State Sen. Cliff Pirtle, R-Roswell, called it "a small step in the right direction" and said, "Moving forward, I hope we will take additional steps to allow small business owners to find stability and consistency, and to eventually reopen at full capacity.”
The state Senate Minority Leader, Greg Baca, R-Belen, urged Lujan Grisham and state health officials "to rework this framework in a manner that sends a clearer message that New Mexico is on the road to recovery.”
The adjustments drew a derisive single-sentence rebuke from House Republican Whip Rod Montoya, R-Farmington, who said, “It is time for the Governor to stop playing with crayons, when she should be getting kids back into the classroom and New Mexicans get back to work.”
Read the entire public health order, which takes effect on Feb. 24, here:
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