Home News COVID-19 Situation Latest update returns Chaves County to Green Level

Latest update returns Chaves County to Green Level

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Eddie Moore / Albuquerque Journal File Photo Human Services Secretary Dr. David Scrase says a downward trend in new COVID-19 cases throughout New Mexico during recent weeks has brought the statewide average daily count to below 210 for the first time in many months.

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Chaves County is back in the “green” after an update of state data Wednesday showed lower COVID-19 community spread, allowing the county to be categorized in the “medium-risk” level of the state’s color-coded risk-assessment system.

The Green Level rating, which Chaves County last received on March 24, will allow businesses and organizations to operate with less stringent restrictions.

The other 32 counties in New Mexico are all at the Turquoise, or low-risk, level. No counties are in the Yellow Level (high risk) or Red Level (highest risk).

Included in the Turquoise group are two counties, Valencia and Catron, that moved up from the Green Level with their updated data.

New Mexico also has met all seven of its gating criteria for the first time in many months, according to Secretary of Human Services Dr. David Scrase, one of the state officials participating in an online press conference Wednesday.

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“I think it has been a really long time since they have all been green,” he said. “We have been waiting for our daily new case count to get under 210, and now, on an average over seven days, it is there. It is really good to see. It’s that downward trend we see in all our case counts.”

That daily case count as an average over a 14-day period, as of May 13, was at 182.

But Scrase also tempered his remarks by saying that the Turquoise-Green map is not the complete picture.

Because the current risk-assessment model allows counties at the Turquoise Level to remain in that category four weeks without a data update, some counties are not due to be reevaluated until June 2.

If data had been refigured for all Turquoise counties using current information, two counties — DeBaca and Quay — would be at the Red Level. Four counties — Guadalupe, Curry, Roosevelt and San Juan — would be at the Yellow Level, according to Scrase.

“This is what the map is going to look like two weeks from now if nothing else changes,” he said.

Chaves reports fewer cases

Chaves County received its improved risk rating by meeting two of the three metrics used to determine risk levels — low case numbers and a low COVID test positivity rate.

According to state information, for the two-week period of May 4 to May 17, Chaves County had an average daily new case count of 5.6 per 100,000 population. The daily case standard is no more than 10 per 100,000 population.

The county’s positivity rate for the most recent two-week data collection period was 2.38%, well below the current 7.5% standard.

The threshold Chaves County did not meet is the percentage of the population who are fully vaccinated. The rate as of May 17 was 33.7%, while the standard is at least 40%.

The numbers show that Chaves County did improve in all metrics compared to the prior two-week period, when it was at the Yellow Level. For the April 20 to May 3 period, Chaves County had a positivity rate of 4.25%, an average daily case count of 11.7 and a vaccination rate of 31.1%.

Being at the Green Level means that the county can now have mass gatherings of up to 20 people and that some essential businesses can operate without any capacity restrictions, although they are still required to operate with only essential functions.

Houses of worship can have 100% capacity. Essential retail spaces, close contact businesses and food and drink establishments that are New Mexico Safe Certified can operate at 50% indoor capacity. Hotels and other lodging businesses that are Safe Certified can have 75% occupancy. Most other businesses can operate at 25% indoor capacity.

Scrase still urges mask use for some 

Scrase said state health officials are continuing to urge that New Mexicans practice hand-washing, coughing into elbows and other safety measures. They also want people to continue to wear masks if not fully vaccinated, except in outdoor settings where few people are present. Fully vaccinated people should wear masks if requested to do so by businesses or whenever they are in schools, correctional facilities, health care settings and homeless shelters.

He said unvaccinated people especially need to understand why the state urges them to continue to wear face coverings.

“If you are not vaccinated and not wearing a mask, you are at least twice as likely to get coronavirus, if not more,” Scrase said.

180 new cases in daily update

The New Mexico Department of Health also released the daily COVID-19 case report on Wednesday afternoon.

That showed that Chaves County had seven new cases and no additional deaths.

The state as a whole had 160 new cases reported by 24 counties and the Otero County Processing Center, which reported one new case.

New Mexico also counted four additional deaths related to COVID among residents in their 50s to 80s who lived in Bernalillo, Dona Ana, Santa Fe and Valencia counties. Three had been hospitalized and all were said to have underlying conditions.

Chaves County now has had 8,988 cases and 171 deaths. Of the total case count, 8,650, or 96.2%, are reported as recovered.

New Mexico has reported 209,418 COVID cases since March 2020. Of those,186,901 cases, or 89.2%, are considered recovered. The state is reporting that COVID-related deaths have totaled 4,122.

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

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