SANTA FE, N.M. (KRQE) – The state announced Friday details on a color-coded tier system which will determine what businesses can begin to reopen moving forward. According to a news release from the New Mexico Department of Health, the shift in the reopening framework comes after a two-week reset period that set more restrictions on businesses in an effort to curb the spread of COVID-19. The new system goes into effect on Dec. 2. The state is expected to execute an amended public health order on Nov. 30 when the current public health order expires.
The new system 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 Friday, every county in the state, except for Los Alamos County falls into the red category.
According to the same news release, the county-by-county framework will permit counties to operate under less restrictive public health measures when health metrics demonstrating the extent of COVID-19 spread and test positivity within those counties are met.
Red counties must follow many of the restrictions in place right now like limiting essential retailers to 25% capacity or 75 customers total, whichever is fewer and prohibiting indoor dining. However, patio dining will be brought back at 25% capacity. Close contact businesses and outdoor rec facilities can also operate at 25%.
“The county-by-county framework enables counties, and the businesses and nonprofits within their borders, to operate with fewer restrictions when they slow the spread of the virus and drive down test positivity rates,” said Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham in a news release. “It’s been a difficult year and an especially difficult past month. We must remain as vigilant as ever to contain and beat the virus; we also must look for ways to lessen the burden on our communities wherever possible, while never swerving from our top priority – protecting New Mexicans and saving lives.”
According to a news release, when a county fails to meet the specified metrics for a given level upon the biweekly update of the map, it will begin operating at the next most restrictive level within 48 hours and when a county meets the specific metrics for a less restrictive level, the county may begin operating at that level of restrictions upon the immediate effect of the department’s biweekly update of the map.
The two key health metrics will be based and identified within the state’s gating criteria, the set of public health data points tracked and measured by the state Medical Advisory Team and others: The per-capita incidence of new COVID-19 cases and average test positivity over a statistically meaningful period of time according to a news release from the governor’s office.
The new color-coded system goes into effect next Wednesday and the map will be updated every other Wednesday.
According to the news release, the following requirements still remain in place statewide:
- Facemasks are required to be worn in public.
- Businesses that accrue a significant number of positive COVID-19 cases within their workforce in a two-week span are subject to temporary closure by the Department of Health.
- An essential business may be permitted to continue operating if the Department of Health and Environment Department determines the business is a necessary provider of goods or services within the community in light of geographic considerations.
- Businesses that test each employee every two weeks and regularly provide contact training data to the Environment Department shall not be subject to closure under this framework
- This applies only to food and drink establishments; close-contact businesses; places of lodging; retail spaces; and other businesses that members of the public regularly visit.
- The closure process is triggered if four or more rapid responses occur within a 14-day period.
- Businesses and nonprofits must adhere to the state’s COVID-Safe Practices.