ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Organizers are planning for this year’s Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, and spectators will likely be allowed as ticket sales for the annual fall event are expected to begin in July.
The fiesta’s early morning mass ascensions, fireworks shows and launches of special-shaped hot air balloons attracts hundreds of thousands of spectators from around the globe and hundreds of balloon pilots and their crews. Last year’s event wasn’t held because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Fiesta spokesman Tom Garrity said Tuesday that the board of directors is committed to following the state’s public health mandates and will have updates on the status of the event each month. The board also plans to identify health measures for pilots and guests by the time tickets go on sale.
“Of course, the measures may be updated based on the current environment and will be evaluated as October approaches,” Garrity said.
New Mexico has had some of the nation’s most restrictive rules in place to curb the spread of COVID-19. Despite criticism, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and state health officials have argued that the rules were necessary because of the lack of access to health care in the state and the high numbers of people with existing health conditions that put them at greater risk.
Some of the restrictions have been relaxed in recent weeks as more counties have met the state’s benchmarks. But the mask mandate remains in place statewide.
Under New Mexico’s color-coded system, a color is assigned based on the risk level in a particular county. The risk is determined by two key metrics: a test positivity rate below 5% and a new per-capita case rate of fewer than 8 per 100,000.
A county that meets one of the benchmarks over a two-week period may operate at the yellow level. A county that meets both benchmarks is considered green, while those that fall short of both are red. Those that are classified as turquoise have been able to hold steady at the lower rates for a longer period of time.
The most recent map released by the state Health Department showed all but 10 of New Mexico’s 33 counties operating as either green or turquoise.
State officials have pointed to increasing vaccination rates for the decline in spread. So far, more than 27% of New Mexicans are fully vaccinated and that’s expected to rise as New Mexico continues with its vaccine campaign.