Copyright © 2021 Roswell Daily Record
Copyright © 2021 Roswell Daily Record
Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said Wednesday she expects the entire state can open from COVID-19 restrictions by the end of June. In the meantime, state officials said, a revised COVID-19 risk assessment system will offer more stability for counties.
State officials have projected 60% of the eligible population will be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 as early as June 30 and expect to lift capacity restrictions on activities and businesses at that time, Lujan Grisham said in a virtual press conference.
As of Wednesday, 42% of New Mexicans age 16 and older are fully vaccinated, according to the New Mexico Department of Health’s vaccine dashboard.
“We are on our way. Sixty percent of eligible New Mexicans are projected to be fully vaccinated by the end of June 2021,” Lujan Grisham said in a virtual press conference Wednesday afternoon.
“Here’s what that means. In nine weeks, New Mexico, we are open,” she said.
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To reach that goal, the state will have to vaccinate about 42,000 people a week, Dr. David Scrase, secretary of Human Services, said.
Once the state reaches that goal, capacity restrictions set at the different levels in the state’s Red to Green risk assessment framework will go away, Lujan Grisham said.
Wearing masks indoors, social distancing and other COVID-safe practices will still be encouraged but not mandated after that time, the governor said.
Until then, the state will adopt new mask-wearing guidelines announced Tuesday by the Centers for Disease Control. Those guidelines can be seen at www.cdc.gov.
“Remember there is a segment of our population that is not eligible for the vaccine, (age) 0 to 15. And so we have to do everything in our power to protect that population and to continue to make sure that we’ve minimized the opportunities for this virus,” she said.
The state’s emergency health order will remain in effect, however. Lujan Grisham said that allows the state to continue to draw on federal assistance programs and offer vaccines for free.
Effective Friday, the state’s county-by-county Red to Green risk framework will be revised. The change is designed to prevent counties from slipping back to a higher risk level, Scrase said.
Three metrics will now be used to determine a county’s color-coded risk level: daily case rates, test positivity and now vaccination rates. The threshold for average daily cases per 100,000 people over a 14-day reporting period will rise from eight to 10, and the test positivity rate will rise from 5% to 7.5%. The target for vaccination rates is 35% to start, but will increase to 40% for the regularly scheduled update on May 5 and increase by 5% every two weeks.
A county that meets none of those targets will be in the very high risk Red Level. A county meeting one target will be in the high risk Yellow Level. A county meeting two targets will be in the medium risk Green Level.
Based on the new criteria and using metrics from the most recent two-week reporting period of May 6 to 19, Chaves County would be one of only three counties that would stay at the Yellow Level.
Chaves County meets only one of the criteria with a test positivity rate of 3.66%. Its average daily case count is just barely over the threshold at 10.5 cases per 100,000 and its vaccination rate is at 29.4% fully vaccinated.
In order to reach the Green Level on May 5, the county will either have to see at least a slight drop in daily case counts or fully vaccinate 2,784 people, according to data on the vaccine dashboard Wednesday.
Counties that are in the Green Level for two consecutive reporting periods will move to the low-risk Turquoise Level. Those that reach Turquoise will be assessed every four weeks rather than every two weeks.
Sen. Cliff Pirtle, R-Roswell, issued a statement along with Sen. Greg Baca, R-Belen, in response to the changes following the press conference.
“My message to the Governor on behalf of most citizens of New Mexico is, it’s about time,” Pirtle said in a press release. “Though my constituents would prefer a full reopening of the state, this change to the calculation is an important update to the reopening framework. Small business owners who just survived the worst operating year in modern history should not have to wonder if they might have the rug pulled out from under them because of a regression triggered by a handful of people.”
Vaccines are a “game-changer” in the state’s progress, Lujan Grisham said. To help increase the numbers, Dr. Tracie Collins, secretary of health, said the state’s primary care providers will be key in getting more shots in arms, especially among those who may be hesitant to get a vaccine.
“We are supporting them to administer vaccine. We really need to have our primary care providers with vaccine doses in their practices,” Collins said.
Collins encouraged anyone hesitant about getting vaccinated to talk with their primary care provider, a pastor or a friend or family member who has been vaccinated.
“Tap into those folks who you trust, those trusted voices, and make an informed decision that you really want to protect yourself and your loved ones,” she said.
In its daily case update Wednesday, the New Mexico Department of Health announced 248 new cases of COVID-19 including seven in Chaves County.
Bernalillo had the most new cases with 93. Doña Ana had the next highest amount at 34, San Juan County had 24, and Sandoval and Santa Fe counties each had 15. Twenty more counties and two correctional facilities each reported fewer than 10 cases.
The total number of cases in New Mexico is now 197,218 including 8,892 in Chaves County.
Twelve deaths were reported Wednesday. Bernalillo and Sandoval counties each reported four deaths. Curry, Doña Ana, Eddy and Sierra counties each reported one death.
The total number of deaths in New Mexico related to COVID-19 is now 4,051. Chaves County’s total is 168.
As of Wednesday, 136 people were hospitalized in the state for COVID-19.
City/RISD reporter Juno Ogle can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 205, or email@example.com.
To keep up with local coverage of the coronavirus, go to rdrnews.com/category/news/covid-19-situation/.