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A Colored Roadmap for Safe Reopening

It seems like lots of things around New Mexico revolve around red and green; why should public health alerts be any different? With the most recent lockdown orders ending on Nov. 30, the State of New Mexico will be issuing a tiered and color-coded way for individual counties to monitor levels of COVID-19 exposure in their areas. The goal of this new system is to make communities aware of their unique alert levels and to ultimately work toward the goal of easing some of the burdensome restrictions on business operations.

Counties will operate under one of three COVID risk levels: Red, which represents a “very high risk”; Yellow, which represents just a “high risk”; and Green, which represents a “medium risk.” (I guess “no risk” is too much to ask for at this point.)

“This 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 press release by her office. “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 whenever possible, while never swerving from our top priority—protecting New Mexicans and saving lives.”

As identified by the Office of the Governor’s “Red to Green” Framework For Safe Reopening, counties at the Green Level must have both a new COVID-19 case incidence rate of no greater than eight cases per 100,000 inhabitants and an average less than or equal to five percent positive COVID-19 test results. Counties at the Yellow Level must have either a new COVID-19 case incidence rate of no greater than eight cases per 100,000 inhabitants or an average less than or equal to five percent positive COVID-19 test results. Counties at the Red Level are identified as those with new COVID-19 case incident rates of greater than eight cases per 100,000 inhabitants and an average greater than five percent positive COVID-19 test results. Each metric is measured over a review period of the most recent 14-day cycle.

The consistent spread of the virus in New Mexico continues to add to the strain on hospitals, healthcare systems and personnel. By providing tangible goals that counties can monitor, the state is hoping to encourage businesses and citizens to work together in mitigating the virus’ spread and, thus, allow businesses to operate under less restrictive public health measures.

The New Mexico Department of Health, through its website cv.nmhealth.org, maintains an official map that displays each county’s current risk level. The map will officially take effect on Wednesday, Dec. 2, and will be updated every other Wednesday thereafter in order to capture an average over that period of time.

If counties are able to demonstrate reductions in the key metrics of per-capita incidences of new COVID-19 cases and average COVID-19 test positivity rate, they will have met specific metrics for a less restrictive level and may begin operating at that level with the update of the biweekly county map.

As of Friday, Nov. 27, 32 of the state’s 33 counties are at the Red Level—which means that almost every business or nonprofit organization may operate, but only under the highest level of restrictions. This leaves plenty of room for improvement and a goal for businesses and communities to strive toward.

“Nothing about this virus has changed,” said Governor Lujan Grisham. “Avoid gatherings. Wear a facemask. Avoid spending time with non-household members. Stay at home whenever—whenever—you can.” No matter a county’s level, businesses must still adhere to all of the state’s identified COVID safe practice guidelines. such as wearing facemasks in public. A complete list can be found on the New Mexico Department of Health website (cv.nmhealth.org/covid-safe-practices/). [ ]