San Juan County moves to Turquoise, along with most New Mexico counties
FARMINGTON — San Juan County joined seven other counties in moving to the state’s less-restrictive Turquoise Level of COVID-19 business restrictions on Wednesday when the New Mexico Department of Health rolled out a fresh list of county rankings.
The new map shows 30 counties at Turquoise Level, with two counties still at Yellow Level and none at the most-restrictive Red Level. Counties at the Turquoise Level will be shifted to a four-week update rather than biweekly updates.
The new restrictions increase so-called “mass gatherings” to 150 people.
The DOH amended the state's Red-Yellow-Green-Turquoise framework last week as more people in the state are getting vaccinated.
The new criteria require a county to report no more than 10 positive COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people within a 2 week period, an average of positive COVID-19 tests at 7.5% or less and a rate of at least 35% of people who are fully vaccinated. The next round will require a 40% vaccination rate.
San Juan County met two out of three requirements for an upgrade, as caseloads for new COVID-19 infections were higher than the state’s goal. San Juan County came in at an average positivity rate of 7.40%, just below the state's cutoff. A vaccination rate of 53.50% for San Juan residents easily outpaced the state’s current goal of having at least 40% of residents vaccinated.
Farmington Mayor Nate Duckett said the state's decision to give Turquoise counties a four-week period between possible status changes and a recent move to get vaccines into the offices of primary health care providers are positive moves, but damage has been done, particularly in a service industry that is having trouble rebuilding a workforce.
Lobbying for a more stable state restriction system intensified after moves between COVID-19 restriction color levels whipsawed local economies between relaxed and restricted statuses, severely impacting many businesses and their employees.
Municipal government and business groups that petitioned the state for changes in how COVID-19 restrictions are measured "just asked that they adapt to our current situation," Duckett said.
He said an important change was the state’s decision to factor in vaccination rates along with case positivity stats and actual case numbers now that vaccination programs are progressing.
"We've got to keep pushing the vaccinations," Duckett said, noting that vaccination rates are one state measurement San Juan County residents can impact by getting a vaccination and raising the percentage of vaccinated people in the county.
More can get back to work
The move to Turquoise means restaurants are allowed to operate at 75% both indoors and outdoors, large entertainment venues such as movie theaters can operate at 33% of their indoor capacity and 75% of their outdoor capacity, and bars and clubs can operate at 33% of indoor capacity and 75% outdoors.
Catron and Valencia Counties are at the Green Level and Chaves County is in the Yellow Level. No counties are at the most restrictive Red Level.
While the state is showing progress toward vaccinations and slowing the spread of COVID-19, the DOH still encourages people to get tested for COVID-19 if they are presenting symptoms, if they traveled or if they spent time with others without facemasks.
Turquoise Level restrictions include:
- 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: 75% of maximum capacity indoors; no restrictions on outdoor spaces
- Food and drink establishments (if NM Safe Certified): 75% of maximum capacity for indoor dining; 75% of maximum capacity for outdoor dining
- Close-contact businesses: 75% of maximum capacity; no restrictions on outdoor spaces
- Large entertainment venues: 33% of maximum capacity for any indoor/enclosed space on-premises; 75% of any outdoor space on-premises
- Recreational facilities: 50% of maximum capacity of any indoor/enclosed space on the premises; 75% of any outdoor space on-premises
- Bars and clubs: 33% of maximum capacity of any indoor/enclosed space on-premises; 75% of any outdoor space on-premises, where applicable
- All other businesses: 75% of maximum capacity indoors; no restrictions on outdoor spaces
- Houses of worship: May operate at 100% capacity indoors or outdoors should they so choose
- Places of lodging: No maximum occupancy restrictions for those that have completed NM Safe Certified training; 50% of maximum occupancy for all others; 15 guests maximum for vacation rentals
- Mass gatherings limit: 150 persons