Every county in New Mexico is now at the turquoise level, the least restrictive level of restrictions. “Given the state’s vaccination progress and continued positive outlook with respect to new virus cases, counties will remain at the turquoise level barring exceptional circumstances,” Department of Health Secretary Dr. Tracie Collins said. Those exceptional circumstances could include an unforeseen mass outbreak of COVID-19 infections. Human Services Department Secretary Dr. David Scrase said this was because of not only improvements, but also changes to the way the state’s color-coded county-level restriction system works. Without the changes put in place by the governor, according to Scrase, five largely rural counties would have been at the yellow level.
If all goes according to plan, the state will fully reopen by the end of June—and in the meantime, much of the state will be on the least restrictive, turquoise level after newly announced changes. “We are conquering COVID,” Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said in a press conference on Wednesday in which she and top state health officials announced sweeping changes to the state’s COVID-19 rules, citing the state’s high number of COVID-19 vaccinations. The state will lift most restrictions, including capacity restrictions, when it hits 60 percent of those age 16 or older who are vaccinated, which the state projects will happen by the end of June. Beginning this Friday, the state will use less strict numbers for positivity rates and cases per capita in each county as well as including vaccination data by county. Lujan Grisham made the announcement Wednesday and said she overruled the medical team for the first time since the beginning of the pandemic to move it forward to Friday instead of Wednesday, May 4 when the county-by-county, color-coded update was scheduled to take place.
Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and health officials held a press conference on the state’s COVID-19 response on Wednesday. The remote press conference was webcast on the governor’s Facebook page. The video below is from the page.
A top state health official said he believed all counties in New Mexico could be at the green or turquoise level by the end of May. “Maybe I shouldn’t even say that, but my way of thinking, we will be an almost completely green and turquoise state by the end of May at the latest,” Human Services Department Secretary Dr. David Scrase said. This all comes as Scrase said the state is finalizing a new red-to-green tier system, which he said could be ready as early as in two weeks, for the next red-to-green update. With New Mexico’s new red-to-green status, 14 counties are in the turquoise level, including Santa Fe County, three are in green, 15 counties are in yellow, including the other four large population counties, and Colfax county is in the red level. Counties at the turquoise level have the least restrictions related to COVID-19, while the county in red is in the most restrictive.
New Mexico has now given at least one shot of a COVID-19 vaccine to half of its population age 16 or older, according to the state’s Health Secretary. Dr. Tracie Collins, the secretary of the state Department of Health, said that in addition to the nearly 50 percent of people who have received at least one shot, 31 percent of New Mexicans are fully vaccinated, either through two shots of the Moderna or Pfizer vaccines or one shot of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. The state’s numbers show 49.4 percent of New Mexicans aged 16 or older with at least one dose and 31.7 percent fully vaccinated. As of Wednesday’s update, 829,765 New Mexicans had received at least one dose and 533,288 were fully vaccinated. This includes 114,211 doses administered in the last seven days from the state.
This morning recap of COVID-19 news from New Mexico is available in a free email every Friday. Sign up here. See all of our COVID-19 coverage here. As of Thursday, the state Department of Health reported 191,945 total cases of COVID-19 and 3,942 deaths related to the disease. As of Thursday, 96 individuals were hospitalized for COVID-19, the fewest since Oct. 5.However, DOH reported 297 cases on Thursday and 277 cases on Wednesday, the first two days with more than 250 cases since March 10.
New Mexico hit a new milestone during the COVID-19 pandemic: No counties are currently in the “red” tier of restrictions, the most restrictive conditions.
With Wednesday’s updates, which uses data from the previous two weeks to show which level of restrictions each county sits in, 13 counties are in the “turquoise” level, ten are in green and ten are in yellow. Counties in the “turquoise” level are those which have been in the green level for two consecutive two-week terms.
Among the high population counties in the state, San Juan and Santa Fe counties reached the turquoise level, while Bernalillo County, Sandoval County and Doña Ana County each are at the yellow level. The state measures whether, in the previous two week period, counties have 8 or more cases per 100,000 residents or an average percent of positive COVID-19 tests results greater than 5 percent. Human Services Department Secretary Dr. David Scrase said in a press conference on Wednesday that the state was evaluating its use of positive test percentage, as that continues to remain at very low levels throughout much of the state. Counties at the less-restrictive tiers are able to have more businesses open, including more indoor dining, retail spaces and recreational facilities.
As you surely know, this country’s covid vaccination effort has been plagued by major birth pangs: registration snafus, poor communication, faulty data and a scant supply of vaccine — all exacerbated by inequitable allocation, alleged political favoritism and unseemly jockeying for shots. Still, as of Friday, over 118 million shots had gone into arms, and about 42 million people, 12.6% of the nation’s population, had been fully vaccinated. Nearly one-quarter of U.S. residents have had at least one dose. The vaccine rollout is finally ramping up — just as the deadly winter surge has ended, dramatically reducing infection rates, hospitalizations and deaths. President Joe Biden has promised enough vaccine for every adult in the country by the end of May and dangled the hope of a return to semi-normalcy by July 4.
The state of New Mexico announced on Friday that it would expand who is eligible to receive a dose of a COVID-19 vaccine to phases 1B and 1C, which includes virtually all New Mexicans ages 16 or older.
The new eligibility includes frontline essential workers, residents of congregate care facilities, New Mexicans aged 60 and older and other essential workers. Those who were eligible in previous phases will continue to be eligible, and the state says this means 1,620,000 New Mexicans out of the 1,680,605 New Mexicans 16 years of age or older. “By expanding the pool of New Mexicans eligible for vaccine, we can keep the momentum going and ensure that New Mexico remains one of the nation’s vaccination leaders,” Department of Health Secretary Dr. Tracie Collins said in a statement. “At the same time, we will redouble our efforts to reach and vaccinate seniors and others in the early phases who have not yet received their shots.”
DOH said this was made possible because the state had provided at least one shot to 60 percent of those previously eligible. This includes about 73 percent of New Mexico residents aged 75 or older.
In case you didn’t see the past two days: The COVID-19 recap will be moving to a weekly format next week.
Thursday was the one-year anniversary of the first case of COVID-19 in New Mexico and the anniversary of the first public health emergency. While the tone of a press conference with cabinet-level officials (see links below for coverage) was largely optimistica year into the pandemic, Human Services Department Secretary Dr. David Scrase mentioned his “hardest day,” December 14. The state had been looking at ways to expand capacity since late November, as cases and hospitalizations continued to grow. But the hospitalizations just kept growing. And the idea of instituting crisis standards of care and ration of care loomed as a real possibility.