NEW MEXICO (KRQE) – For the first time, all 33 New Mexico counties are now operating under the state’s Turquoise COVID-19 reopening rules on the updated statewide COVID-19 map. However, the latest change wouldn’t have come if it were not for the state suspending the rules to determine counties’ color-coded status.
Under a new public health order issued Wednesday, the state is now ordering all counties to operate in the Turquoise framework, regardless of if they’re meeting two of the three COVID-related criteria. Since late last year, the state has been measuring COVID-19’s community spread by analyzing new cases per 100,000 people and test positivity rates. In the spring, the state added total vaccinations as a third metric.
In the latest update, Chaves County moved from the Green Level to Turquoise Level. For the last two weeks, Chaves County was the only New Mexico county that was not in turquoise.
The latest public health order permanently grants turquoise status all of New Mexico’s counties. But according to state data, at least five of the state’s lesser populated counties are not meeting two of the three criteria the state established for shifting reopening levels. Those include Torrance, De Baca, Harding, Guadalupe and Roosevelt counties, which have each vaccinated fewer than 50% of their county’s total population and are above either the state’s target cases per 100,000 people or test positivity rate.
At a news conference Wednesday, Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham’s health advisors said the “all turquoise” framework is an effort in part to keep the state’s economy on track.
“The Governor feels so confident in our vaccine efforts and so desirous in restoring economic balance to the state that she is generously put forth the direction that Secretary Collins signed in the public health order, that until we’re fully open, all counties will be turquoise,” said Dr. David Scrase, New Mexico’s Human Services Department Secretary. “I think it’s just an opportunity to do everything we possibly can to give the economy a chance to regrow and things to reopen more and businesses to do better every chance we can, so that’s my take on why all turquoise even though the numbers aren’t perfect.”
The change in rules simply means the state is no longer holding counties reopening status back if they don’t meet all of the desired vaccination, cases per 100-thousand people or test positivity rates.
The state is expected to fully reopen two weeks after it meets a threshold of fully vaccinating 60% of New Mexicans, 16 and older. As of Wednesday, the state’s vaccine dashboard shows 56% of New Mexicans now have two shots.
Among all of New Mexico’s counties, 15 New Mexico counties are currently below the state’s target of vaccinating 50% of the county population. The state is expecting a surge of new vaccination activity, especially among rural and younger populations with the new multi-million dollar vaccine sweepstakes.
Once New Mexico hits the 60% mark, the state is still expected to be under some kind of public health order. However, that order isn’t expected to have capacity limits among other more restrictive rules.