Home News COVID-19 Situation NM announces ‘red to green’ COVID risk system

NM announces ‘red to green’ COVID risk system

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32 counties in ‘red zone’ as new public health orders set to take effect

COVID-19 numbers in the state and the county continued a steep upward climb Saturday, as the state prepares to transition next week to a county-by-county method for determining COVID-related restrictions and regulations.

The new public orders are scheduled to be signed Monday and take effect Wednesday.

23 more deaths announced

The state had 31 counties and two state correctional facilities reporting 2,142 new cases Saturday, according to the New Mexico Department of Health. That brings the state total of positive cases since the pandemic began in March to 93,982. People who are considered recovered total 31,482.

Twenty-three COVID-related fatalities among residents of eight counties also occurred, with one of those being a man in his 80s from Chaves County. According to the state, he had been hospitalized and had pre-existing conditions.

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The other deaths involved people ranging in age from their 30s to their 100s. The vast majority were said to have underlying conditions, and all but one was either hospitalized or in care facilities. Eight were from Bernalillo County, four from Doña Ana County, two from Lea County, five from San Juan County and one each from Taos, Valencia and Sandoval counties.

There have now been 1,527 deaths in New Mexico attributed to COVID-19.

Chaves County had the fourth-highest daily count with 162 new cases. That brings the county’s total numbers since March to 4,530, with 1,467 people reported as recovered. There have been 39 local deaths.

In addition, 223 detainees of the state-run Roswell Correctional Center near Hagerman have been diagnosed with COVID-19. Staff or residents at six local care facilities also are reporting COVID-19 cases during the past 28 days. Those facilities are Avamere, Bee Hive, Casa Maria Health Care Center, Mission Arch Center, Sunset Villa Care Center and the Village Retirement Center.

Red to green assessments announced

The state and all of its 33 counties remain under public health orders updated Nov. 16.

But, according to Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and the state Health Department, the state will sign new health orders Monday to take effect Wednesday. The new orders will implement the county-by-county method to determine restrictions and regulations.

“The county-by-county framework enables counties, and the businesses and nonprofits within their borders, to operate with fewer restrictions when they slow the spread of the virus and drive down test positivity rates,” said Lujan Grisham in a Friday news release.

She also added that hospitals and health care workers across the state are reporting “great strain” trying to keep up with treating COVID-19 patients. Previously she and others in her administration also explained that high infection numbers make it difficult for the state to keep up with contact tracing or its Rapid Response efforts to curtail COVID cases at businesses.

Under the “red to green” method, counties are either judged as very high risk (red), high risk (yellow) or medium risk (green). Two key measures to determine the ratings will be the per capita incidence of COVID-19 and the average COVID test positivity rate over a period of time, typically 14 days.

Thirty-two of New Mexico’s counties are now in the red zone. Los Alamos County is in the yellow zone.

The green rating is per capita incidence of 8 or fewer COVID cases per 100,000 people and a positivity rate of 5% or less. The yellow rating is for counties that meet one, but not both criteria. Red ratings are for counties that exceed both the per capita incidence and the positivity rate levels. Chaves County has 151.1 cases per 100,000 population and a 23.3% positivity rate.

Counties in the red zone will not be allowed to provide indoor food or drink service, and close-contact recreational facilities such as indoor movie theaters will have to remain closed. Most “non-essential” businesses will be limited either to 25% occupancy or 75 people inside buildings at any one time, whichever count is lower.

County maps will be updated weekly, while the rating metrics will be updated biweekly. Counties’ restrictions would change 48 hours after the biweekly update if their risk levels change.

Also on Monday, the Roswell City Council is scheduled to vote on a proposed resolution that would authorize city staff to keep all of its facilities open, regardless of state orders. (See related story.)

Some statewide measures also will remain in effect after Thursday no matter what the county risk level is. Those measures include the mandate to wear face coverings in public, the requirement that all businesses and organizations operate according to COVID-safe practices, and the rules governing 14-day closures for certain categories of businesses that have four or more Rapid Responses during a two-week period due to a report of a COVID-19 case at the worksite.

To keep up with local coverage of the coronavirus, go to rdrnews.com/category/news/covid-19-situation/.

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