SANTA FE, N.M. (KRQE) – As New Mexico exits a two-week shutdown to reduce the high number of new COVID-19 cases, a shift to a county-by-county reopening has the state hoping local communities are empowered to keep the case count down. On Friday, the state announced details on a color-coded tier system which will determine what businesses can begin to reopen moving forward.
The new system goes into effect on Dec. 2 and will be broken down into three categories based on each county’s gating criteria: green signifying medium risk, yellow signifying high risk, and red signifying very high risk. As of Monday morning, all counties except for Los Alamos County are labeled red.
Red counties will have to follow many of the restrictions currently in place however, patio dining, close-contact businesses, and outdoor recreational facilities can operate at 25% capacity. Alcohol sales must stop at 9 p.m.
Every other Wednesday, counties will have a chance to see restrictions tighten or loosen. “We think this ‘Red to Green’ is an opportunity to mitigate some of that risk and to increase local participation in our success, if you don’t increase their flexibility, it’s hard for folks to feel like there’s any gain from their good behavior, fair response by both our private sector folks and by New Mexicans who want to succeed,” said Gov. Lujan Grisham.
Other rules include a limited reopening for close contact businesses like gyms and salons which will be allowed 25% capacity or ten customers whichever is fewer. With Los Alamos County the only yellow tiered county, KRQE News 13 asked the governor if there’s concern that a wave of people may travel to neighboring counties where more services are allowed. “Yes, some risk, but I think the circumstances about where we are have changed dramatically and that creates an opportunity for a different set of success,” Gov. Lujan Grisham said.
The red, yellow and green statuses are all based on test positivity rates and average case counts. If a county backslides to more restrictive rules, the state says it will give businesses 48 hours to react. At the least restrictive green tier, the state will allow far more indoor capacity at restaurants and close contact businesses with up to 50% capacity inside.