New COVID-case chart helps break down key benchmarks for New Mexico counties reopening

Coronavirus New Mexico

SANTA FE, N.M. (KRQE) – Nearly two weeks after implementing a new red-yellow-green tiered reopening system, New Mexico’s Governor says several counties are on the verge of shifting out of the red into the next phase. While the next data update is still a few days out, the state is making it easier to track one of the benchmarks counties need to get there.

To shift from red to yellow, New Mexico counties either need to have a test positivity rate of 5% or less, or register just eight new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people in a two-week cycle. A new chart from the state shows how many total cases each county needs to stay under in a two-week span to meet the 8 cases per 100,000 people criteria.

The chart features every county’s population and the total number of COVID cases they’re allowed to rack up on a two-week basis. New Mexico Human Services Department Secretary Dr. David Scrase debuted the chart to the public on Thursday.

“I’ve got a lot of people call up and tell me, well wait a minute, Harding County gets one case, that means they’re red and it’s true,” Dr. Scrase said. “All these numbers for every county are equally difficult to obtain, they’re exactly the same, so, keeping below one case in Harding is actually just as hard as it is for the people in Bernalillo County to keep below 762.”

The most populous county, Bernalillo County, needs to stay at or under a total of 762 new cases over two weeks. Harding County can only have one case in two weeks to stay within the limits.

Based on the daily COVID-19 numbers provided by the state, some counties still have a long way to go. Bernalillo County has racked up more than 1,000 new COVID cases in just the last three days. Meanwhile, Harding County has had at least two new cases in the last week.

Despite all of the red counties not meeting either of the yellow or green benchmarks today, Dr. Scrase believes counties can rebound quickly. Showing a “heat map” of the state Thursday, data shows in late August through early September, New Mexico had several green counties.

“This is where we were on the left a few months ago, this is where we were last week,” Dr. Scrase said. “I actually believe we can get back there; we’re seeing some great progress with the reset, I’m hoping we’ll continue that hard work to make that happen.”

Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham said Thursday “several” counties can get into the yellow reopening category by Wednesday, December 16, when the state releases its next round of reopening data. However, she did not specify which.

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