Chaves County is out of the red.
The county’s test positivity rate for COVID-19 dropped more than 4 percentage points to 3.22% in Wednesday’s update of the Red to Green risk assessment system, meeting the state’s target of 5% or less to move to the Yellow Level.
The county averaged 11.8 new cases of COVID-19 per day per 100,000 people, above the state’s target of eight or fewer cases per day, but only one of the metrics has to be met to move into the Yellow Level.
As a result, the county immediately moved to lighter levels of restrictions on businesses and activities Wednesday.
One of the biggest changes for Chaves and nine other counties that moved from Red to Yellow is indoor dining will now be allowed at restaurants that have completed the New Mexico Safe Certified training program at 33% of total capacity. Those that do not have the safe certification cannot offer indoor dining. All restaurants can offer outdoor dining at 75% capacity.
Houses of worship can increase capacity from 25% to 33%. Limits on mass gatherings increase from five people to 10, or from 40 vehicles to 80.
Essential retail businesses increase from 25% of capacity to 35%. Places of lodging that have completed the New Mexico Safe Certified training program can increase maximum occupancy from 40% to 60%. Those that have not completed the training remain at a 25% limit on occupancy.
The other counties that moved from Red to Yellow Level are Hidalgo, Lea, Lincoln, Luna, Rio Arriba, Roosevelt, San Juan and Socorro. Remaining at the Yellow Level are Bernalillo, Cibola, Colfax, Curry, Grant, Guadalupe, San Miguel, Sandoval, Santa Fe and Valencia.
Doña Ana County dropped from Yellow to Red, joining Eddy, McKinley and Otero counties.
Moving to the Green Level were De Baca, Los Alamos, Mora, Quay, Taos and Torrance counties.
Also on Wednesday, the state announced a modification of its Red to Green risk assessment system that adds a low-risk level and modifies the classification of entertainment and recreational venues.
The benchmark for the medium-risk Green Level is a test positivity rate below 5% and fewer than eight new cases per day. Counties that meet both of those metrics for four weeks in a row will move into the new Turquoise Level that includes provisions for expanded indoor dining and operation of venues such as theaters, bars and clubs, according to a press release from the Governor’s Office.
Four counties met the criteria Wednesday for the Turquoise Level — Catron, Harding, Sierra and Union.
The revisions also recategorize businesses that were considered “close contact recreational facilities.” That category originally included indoor movie theaters, indoor museums with interactive displays, miniature golf, amusement parks, concert venues, professional sports venues, bars, dance clubs, casinos, racetracks and other places of recreation or entertainment and others.
The changes announced Wednesday sort such facilities into three categories:
• “Large entertainment venues” are defined as publicly or privately owned venues that host large audiences for entertainment or amusement and include racetracks, concert venues, movie theaters, professional sports venues, and theaters or other performance venues.
These venues can operate in the Turquoise Level at 33% of maximum occupancy of any enclosed space on the premises and up to 75% occupancy of an outdoor space. At the Green Level, it’s 25% and 50% respectively. At the Yellow Level, occupancy is 25% of any outdoor space but indoor space cannot be open to patrons except to use a restroom. They are to remain closed at the Red Level.
• “Recreational facilities” are any publicly or privately owned facilities used for activities capable of bringing people within close proximity of one another. Those include basketball courts, baseball fields, bowling alleys, football fields, golf courses, skating rinks, museums, soccer fields, swimming pools, tennis courts, youth programs and zoos.
At the Turquoise Level, recreational facilities can operate at up to 50% of the occupancy of an enclosed space and 75% of an outdoor space. At the Yellow and Red levels, only outdoor spaces can be used at 33% and 25%, respectively.
• “Bars and clubs” are any businesses that generate more than half their revenue from the sale of alcohol for on-premises consumption.
At the Turquoise Level, bars and clubs can operate at 33% of an enclosed space’s occupancy and up to 75% of an outdoor space. At the Green Level, occupancy is 25% of an outdoor space. They are to remain closed at both Yellow and Red levels.
In Wednesday’s daily case update from the New Mexico Health Department, the state reported 448 new cases of COVID-19 including 19 in Chaves County. No local deaths related to the virus were reported among 14 in the state.
City/RISD reporter Juno Ogle can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 205, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
To keep up with local coverage of the coronavirus, go to rdrnews.com/category/news/covid-19-situation/.