NEW MEXICO (KRQE) – Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham announced Friday that New Mexico will retire its color-coded, county-by-county system and all COVID health restrictions will be lifted July 1. According to the news release, all limitations on mass gatherings will be gone. Also, businesses, large events and organizations may operate at 100% capacity. Until July 1, all counties in the state will remain at the least restrictive Turquoise Level.
The state will continue to follow CDC guidelines for masks. According to the release, masks will remain required for unvaccinated individuals, and businesses may continue to require masks for employees, customers or visitors, regardless of vaccination status, at their discretion.
“We will continue to work with vaccine providers in and outside of New Mexico to be sure that every single vaccination is counted,” said Human Services Secretary David Scrase, M.D in a news release. “We are grateful to all New Mexicans who have stepped up to receive their shots and who have called us to provide their data. We believe our level of immunity is in fact greater than 60 percent, including the immunity of those in our state who have had COVID-19 and have not been vaccinated, and those who have had a mild infection as well. For all practical purposes, we have met the governor’s 60 percent goal, and we need to keep up our efforts to increase vaccinations and enhance good public health practices throughout the summer.”
Gov. Lujan Grisham had wanted at least 60% of eligible New Mexicans to be vaccinated two weeks ahead of reopening. According to the release, as of midday June 18, NMDOH reports 59.4% of eligible New Mexicans have completed their COVID-vaccine series. The state says they are expecting more data from federal entities by Sunday. Officials expect those numbers will bring the state within its goal.
In a statement from the governor, she had hoped the vaccination numbers would have been higher by now. “The variants across the globe and in the U.S. present very serious risks to unvaccinated people, even young people. We all, each of us, have the power to stop the serious illnesses and deaths: Get your shot. It’s safe. It works. It’s that simple. Don’t wait for COVID to infect you or someone you love and wish you’d decided differently.”
As of June 14, New Mexico counties with the best rate of individuals that have completed their vaccination series, and helped pull the state to the 60% mark, are:
- Los Alamos County: 81.5 percent
- McKinley County: 77.9 percent
- Taos County: 69.7 percent
- Rio Arriba: 67.5 percent
- Santa Fe County: 67 percent
- Sandoval County: 65.6 percent
- Cibola County: 64.2 percent
- Bernalillo County: 62.2 percent
- San Juan County: 61.7 percent
- Guadalupe County: 60.9 percent
As of June 14, the New Mexico counties with the worst completed vaccination rates, and where risk of infection and illness are thus highest, are:
- Roosevelt County: 28.3 percent
- Curry County: 34.4 percent
- Torrance County: 35.5 percent
- Eddy County: 35.7 percent
- Quay County: 37.2 percent
While this is a huge milestone in the pandemic, full reopening does not mean the pandemic is over. Right now, Dr. Scrase says the state’s top doctors and governors are working on a so-called ‘continued public health order’ where they’ll have plans in place on what to do if the vaccine does not work on a new variant or in the event of an outbreak, which Dr. Scrase says is not out of the question.
“The pandemic amongst the unvaccinated, particularly in these rural counties, where there’s very low vaccination rates is likely to have some very tense moments especially as we get into the fall and winter. So, we’re just going to be balancing that,” Dr. Scrase said.
In the meantime, the state will focus on vaccinating the remaining 40% of New Mexicans, Dr. Scrase says more incentives are not off the table. This week’s $100 incentive was a massive success. The rates of full vaccinations nearly tripled compared to the week prior.