Home News COVID-19 Situation Entire state at Turquoise Level until fully open

Entire state at Turquoise Level until fully open

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The entire state of New Mexico is now at the Turquoise Level of the state’s COVID-19 risk assessment system and, under a revised emergency health order issued Wednesday, every county will stay at that level until the state fully opens.

That news comes as Chaves County, which had been the only county not at the Turquoise Level, met the criteria for the Green Level for the second consecutive assessment period, which would have moved it to the less restrictive level anyway.

However, the revision kept several other counties from moving from Turquoise to a more restrictive level.

Chaves County met two of the three metrics with an average of 4.8 new cases per day per 100,000 people and a test positivity rate of 2.39% for the May 18 to 31 assessment period. The daily case average improved from 5.6 cases from the previous assessment period, while test positivity held steady. In vaccination rates, 35.6% of the county’s population age 16 and older has completed the vaccination series and 41% have received at least one dose.

Those who have completed the series — two doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, one of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine — are not considered fully vaccinated until two weeks after the completion according to the Centers for Disease Control. The NMDOH vaccine dashboard now lists completed vaccinations rather than full vaccinations.

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The state is on track to reach its goal of 60% of the population age 16 and older being fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by the end June, Dr. Tracie Collins, New Mexico secretary of the department of health, said in a livestreamed update Wednesday afternoon.

Fifty-six percent of the population had completed the vaccination series as of Wednesday, Collins said, with 65.7% having at least one dose.

“Given the state’s vaccination progress and continued positive outlook with respect to new virus cases, counties will remain at the Turquoise Level barring any exceptional circumstances, and that will continue for the duration of our use of the color-coded county-by-county system,” Collins said.

“The day we hit 60% completed vaccinations, we’ll set the timer exactly two weeks after that,” said Dr. David Scrase, New Mexico secretary of human services.

The revised health order offers stability for economic recovery, Scrase said. Had the health order not been revised, several counties would have gone from Turquoise to Yellow, he said.

“I think it’s just an opportunity to do everything we possibly can to give the economy a chance to regrow and to reopen more and businesses to do better,” he said.

When the state reaches the 60% fully vaccinated goal, the color-coded map will go away but the emergency health order will remain in place, the health officials said.

“We will still need to maintain some sort of surveillance and keep track of cases, but we will no longer be using the color scheme. So people will be free to go about and do their activities safely, and then we want to evaluate ongoing what makes sense to keep New Mexico safe, but please be clear, the goal is to open up,” Collins said.

Scrase said by continuing the public health order, New Mexico will be able to take advantage of federal funding.

“The state, somewhere in the bottom three lowest per-capita income, gets an enormous amount of revenue in the federal government support programs,” he said.

“We’ve gotten substantial extra benefits in student SNAP, the P-EBT cards,” he said, referring to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer for students who qualify for free or reduced meal programs.

“The state is eligible for those benefits as long as the state has declared a public health emergency and the federal government has declared a public health emergency,” he said.

Health regulations will also likely be needed for those who are unvaccinated, Scrase said. Those who have not received COVID-19 vaccines will still have to follow guidelines such as wearing a mask, maintaining social distance and frequently washing hands, he said.

“It’s still actually spreading more rapidly among the unvaccinated individuals in our state,” he said.

To give New Mexicans the incentive to get vaccinated, the state announced Tuesday a $10 million sweepstakes through the summer.

The health officials pointed to the success of a similar sweepstakes in Ohio. According to the Ohio Department of Health, vaccinations for those 16 and older increased by 28% the weekend of May 14 after the sweepstakes was announced.

West Virginia, Minnesota, Arkansas, New York, Delaware and California have also started similar giveaways with prizes including cash and scholarships.

“There are many of us at the state who believe that we’re going to see the same sort of results in New Mexico like we saw in Ohio and other places with the lottery, where a lot more younger individuals and more people who live in rural areas will step up and take the vaccine,” Scrase said.

In its daily case update Wednesday, NMDOH announced 92 new cases of COVID-19 statewide. No new cases were reported in Chaves County.

The total number of cases in the state is 203,222 with 9,024 in Chaves County.

Four deaths related to the virus were announced — a man in his 60s from Bernalillo County, a man in his 80s from Curry County, a man in his 70s from Doña Ana County and a man in his 20s from McKinley County. Three had been hospitalized and three had underlying health conditions.

The total number of deaths in the state is now 4,269 including 169 in Chaves County.

As of Wednesday, 103 people were hospitalized for COVID-19 in the state.

City/RISD reporter Juno Ogle can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 205, or reporter04@rdrnews.com.

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

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