Tierna Unruh-Enos is the managing editor and associate publisher at The Paper.

coronavirus
This transmission electron microscope image shows SARS-CoV-2—also known as 2019-nCoV, the virus that causes COVID-19—isolated from a patient in the U.S. Virus particles are shown emerging from the surface of cells cultured in the lab. The spikes on the outer edge of the virus particles give coronaviruses their name, crown-like. Image captured and colorized at NIAID's Rocky Mountain Laboratories (RML) in Hamilton, Montana. Credit: NIAID

Governor Lujan Grisham announced on Wednesday, Feb. 24 that the state’s Red-Yellow-Green framework for aligning county-level requirements and guidelines with virus risk has been updated to include a new “Turquoise Level”, which allows more day-to-day and commercial activities. This new level reflects the improving COVID-19 outlook across the state. The state says its vaccine distribution plan is contributing to decreased community spread.

The plan includes a new least restrictive level where all categories of business can operate indoors with minimal occupancy limitations. A county will reach this least restrictive level, the Turquoise Level, by meeting key health criteria for two consecutive two-week periods and effectively graduating out of the Red-Yellow-Green guidelines, as long there is no resurgence of the virus.

“I know New Mexicans are tired of COVID-19 – I am too,” said Lujan Grisham. “We have made very solid progress in recent weeks and months, and we have all together saved lives and protected our family members and neighbors.” 

The county-by-county framework includes a new least-restrictive designation signifying low risk: the Turquoise Level. A county may operate at the Turquoise Level after having met both key health metrics for four weeks. In other words, a county that meets the criteria to operate at the Green Level for two consecutive biweekly COVID-19 hotspot updates, will elevate to the Turquoise Level, which includes significantly fewer restrictions on commercial and day-to-day activities.

The Turquoise Level includes provisions for expanded indoor dining, the operation of entertainment venues like theaters, bars and clubs and more.

The updated changes also include:

  • Businesses that had previously been categorized as “close-contact recreational facilities,” and closed at each level of the risk system, will be recategorized and permitted to operate at limited capacities depending on their new category and the risk level of the county in which they operate.
  • State parks, which had previously been open only for day-use for New Mexico residents, will now be open to camping with reservations and day-use for all.
  • Large Entertainment Venues, Recreational Facilities and Bars

On Wednesday, the state also updated its statewide COVID-19 map with 19 counties at the Yellow Level and six at the Green Level and four counties reaching the new Turquoise Level.

Counties that are now in the Green Level are De Baca, Los Alamos, Mora, Quay, Taos and Torrance.

Counties that are in the Yellow Level are Bernalillo, Chaves, Cibola, Colfax, Curry, Grant, Guadalupe, Hidalgo, Lea, Lincoln, Luna, Rio Arriba, Roosevelt, San Juan, San Miguel, Sandoval, Santa Fe, Socorro and Valencia.

In addition, 4 counties have met the new Turquoise Level and those counties include Catron, Harding, Sierra and Union.

Doña Ana, Eddy, McKinley and Otero county are all in the Red Level. Doña Ana was previously at the Yellow Level, but has regressed.

TURQUOISE LEVEL

Counties at the Turquoise Level have both a new COVID-19 case incidence rate of no greater than 8 cases per 100,000 inhabitants during the most recent four-week period, and an average percent of positive COVID-19 test results over the most recent four-week period less than or equal to 5%.

Essential businesses (non-retail): No capacity restrictions but operations must be limited to only those absolutely necessary to carry out essential functions.

Essential retail spaces: 75% of maximum capacity (indoor and outdoor)

Food and drink establishments (if NM Safe Certified): 75% of maximum capacity for indoor dining; 75% of maximum capacity for outdoor dining.

Close-contact businesses: 75% of maximum capacity; no restrictions on outdoor spaces.

Large entertainment venues: 33% of maximum capacity for any indoor/enclosed space on premises; 75% of any outdoor space.

Recreational facilities: 50% of maximum capacity of any indoor/enclosed space on the premises; 75% of any outdoor space.

Bars and clubs: 33% of maximum capacity of any indoor/enclosed space; 75% of any outdoor space.

**All other businesses: 75% of maximum capacity indoors; no restrictions on outdoor spaces.

Houses of worship: May hold religious services, indoors or outdoors, or provide services through audiovisual means, but may not exceed 75% of the maximum capacity of any enclosed space.

Places of lodging: No maximum occupancy restrictions for those that have completed NM Safe Certified training; 50% of maximum occupancy for all others; 15 guests maximum for vacation rentals.

Mass gatherings limit: 150 people, or 200 vehicles.


The “Red to Green” map is updated every two weeks on Wednesdays. The next update is scheduled for Wednesday, March 10.

Written by

Tierna Unruh-Enos is the managing editor and associate publisher at The Paper.