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

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Governor Lujan Grisham will announce later today that four counties had met Green Level criteria and Bernalillo County and 14 others finally reached the “yellow” level. Baby steps. While we all still need to wear our masks, it means we’re making progress. It also means that struggling businesses might start to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

The state is also lifting travel restrictions beginning Thursday.

In bi-weekly data posted today by the Department of Health, Harding, Union, Sierra and Catron counties all moved into the “green” level. 15 counties, including the state’s three most populous of Bernalillo, Santa Fe and Dona Ana.

That means that more than half of New Mexico’s 33 counties are out of the red zone. Clusters of red counties remained in southeast, southwest and northwest corners of the state where resistance to health orders has been high.

“New Mexicans have been working hard to get this virus back under control,” said Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham. “The state’s efforts to continue our aggressive testing while efficiently distributing vaccines have contributed to the improving outlook for New Mexico. We’re not out of the woods yet, and vigilance is the only way to make sure we keep making progress. I ask all New Mexicans to please continue the hard work and continue making the right, and safe, choices each and every day, so we can see more of our state get into the Yellow and Green, and so we can keep ourselves, our families and our state safe.”


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Counties at the “Yellow Level” have either a new COVID-19 case incidence rate of no greater than 8 cases per 100,000 inhabitants during the most recent two-week period, or an average percent of positive COVID-19 test results over the most recent 14-day period less than or equal to 5 percent. The state’s data is based on a rolling two-week average meaning we can cautiously celebrate, but still need to keep vigilante to get to green.

So what’s open now? Under the DOH guidance, counties in the yellow category can allow businesses to open with fewer restrictions:

  • 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: 33% of maximum capacity
  • Food and drink establishments: 25% of maximum capacity for indoor dining; 75% of maximum capacity for outdoors dining; any establishment serving alcohol must close by 10 p.m. each night
  • Close-contact businesses: 25% of maximum capacity or 20 customers at one time, whichever is smaller
  • Outdoor recreational facilities: 25% of maximum capacity (unless required to have less capacity under the state’s COVID-Safe Practices)
  • Close-contact recreational facilities: Remain closed
  • All other businesses: 25% of maximum capacity or 125 customers at one time, whichever is smaller
  • Houses of worship: May hold religious services, indoors or outdoors, or provide services through audiovisual means, but may not exceed 33% of the maximum capacity of any enclosed space on the premises
  • Places of lodging: 60% of maximum occupancy for those that have completed NM Safe Certified training; 25% of maximum occupancy for all others; 5 guests maximum for vacation rentals
  • Mass gatherings limit: 10 persons, 80 vehicles

We can’t get the green light until we’ve been in the yellow zone for at least two weeks. It may sound redundant, but the only way to get there is to avoid mass gatherings and wear a mask when we leave the house.


Get the Vaccine

If you haven’t already, you can register to get the vaccine online. After some hiccups in supply, and a few cancellations of mass vaccine clinics, state health officials say they’re receiving 59,500 doses per week and administering about 9,000 doses a day. So get in line, it’ll be your turn soon.

The “Red to Green” map is updated every two weeks on Wednesdays. The next update is scheduled for Wednesday, Feb. 24.

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