Home News COVID-19 Situation State officials see progress in fight against COVID-19

State officials see progress in fight against COVID-19

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham announced Wednesday that 19 counties are now considered Yellow Level and Green Level in terms of COVID risk factors. This photo provided to The Associated Press by the Governor's Office shows her signing legislation in November 2020. (File Photo)

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New executive order eases travel quarantines

Chaves County saw significant improvement in its COVID-19 risk factors in recent weeks but remains categorized as a “Red Level” county, according to information released Wednesday by the New Mexico Department of Health.

Updated data on the state’s 33 counties indicated that 29 counties now have COVID positivity rates of 10% or less. That information was released at the same time that a new executive order took effect to relax rules concerning travel-related quarantines for people entering or returning to the state.

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said during an online press conference that dramatic improvements in risk factors statewide showed the efficacy of the state’s infection prevention and management efforts, including its work to administer 365,297 COVID-19 vaccines since December.

“It is really good news. It says the strategies we have put into place are working,” Lujan Grisham said.

Dr. David Scrase, secretary of the New Mexico Human Services Department, added, “Every single county is getting better. We are making progress and we can begin to move forward.”

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New order ‘advises’ quarantines

The previous travel order that took effect Oct. 29 instituted a mandatory 14-day quarantine if people came into New Mexico from a high-risk state, defined as one with a positivity rate of 5% or higher and with a COVID-19 case rate of 80 or more per 1 million people.

As of Feb. 9, Hawaii was the only state not considered a high-risk state.

The new order does not require quarantines but advises quarantines or self-isolation of 14 days after coming to New Mexico from a high-risk state. The order also recommends that people obtain a COVID-19 test as soon as possible upon entering New Mexico.

More counties move to Green Level

The data update used to determine risk levels for counties shows that Chaves is one of 14 in the state to remain in the “very high risk” Red Level, which has the most restrictions regarding business operations, the size of gatherings and other activities.

But, as of Wednesday, 15 counties are in the “high risk” Yellow Level and four are in the “medium risk” Green Level.

“We went from a red state to a multi-color state with many more opportunities,” said Lujan Grisham.

The average number of daily cases this week was 475, she said, which was a 66% decrease compared to the same week a month ago.

Chaves saw a decrease in average new daily cases to 28.6 per 100,000 people for the 14-day period of Jan. 26 to Feb. 8. The positivity rate for the county also fell to 7.26%

For the Jan. 14 to Jan. 25 period, the average case numbers had been 55.9 per 100,000 and the positivity rate had been 12.59%. For the Dec. 29 to Jan. 13 period, Chaves County had average new daily cases of 85.6 per 100,000 people and a 17.51% positivity rate.

To be in the “medium risk” Green Level, which has the fewest restrictions, counties need a positivity rate of 5% or lower and an average new daily case count of 8 or fewer per 100,000, with the data averaged over a 14-day period. That case rate equates to about 5.2 a day for Chaves County, which has a population of about 65,000.

Lujan Grisham and Scrase continued to say that vigilance and precautions are necessary. Lujan Grisham said COVID-19 is a “deadly virus that will always remain among us” but also that she felt confident the statewide risk is lessening.

“We are doing incredible work together,” she said. “This is how I know that light that I said was tiny and I could see is now becoming a big headlight and we are racing toward it.”

She also said she anticipates introducing a new color to the risk-level framework as risk levels decrease in some counties.

“I don’t have a name for it yet, but look for green-plus coming to you soon,” she said.

14 new local cases, one death

The state had 512 new COVID-19 cases reported Wednesday, with 31 additional deaths. New Mexico has now recorded 178,790 positive cases and 3,461 deaths since March 2020. The number of people considered recovered is at 114,976, or 64.3% of total cases.

For Chaves County, the Wednesday announcement showed 14 new cases and the death of a woman in her 60s who had been living at Mission Arch Center. The woman had been hospitalized before her death.

Chaves County has now had a total of 8,367 COVID cases and 139 deaths since the pandemic began.

There are also 229 cases among detainees at the state-operated Roswell Correctional Center near Hagerman. Chaves County residents counted as recovered total 5,890, or about 70.4% of the total cases.

More information about COVID-19 and vaccine data, public health and executive orders, and the Red-to-Green framework is available on a state website, https://cv.nmhealth.org.

Senior Writer Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 351, or at reporter02@rdrnews.com.

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

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Lisa Dunlap is a general assignment reporter for the Roswell Daily Record.