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Justin Schatz is The Paper's daily news reporter. He has reported on New Mexico for KRQE News, Searchlight NM and the Santa Fe Reporter.

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The governor made big changes to the state’s Red to Green framework in New Mexico. Starting this Friday, April 30, the state will loosen the COVID restrictions and the entire state will move to either Green or Turquoise level. Bernalillo County is one of three counties that will move to Green.

The governor said the change in designation is due to the high vaccination rate in the state. Lujan Grisham also said that once the state is 60 percent vaccinated, the entire color-coded system will go away. The Dept. of Health estimates that will happen by June 30.

The Paper. spoke to local restaurants and bars following the announcement. “I want to be cautious with things, but I want to keep our lights on. It’s a difficult balance. It’s a relief that everyone is getting their vaccines. We’re excited for life getting back to normal,” said Joe Robak, a manager at Scalo Italian Restaurant in Nob Hill.

Carrie Phillis owns The Salt Yard and Effex Nightclub in downtown Albuquerque. “It’s exciting that there’s a timeline now of when we can open back up. We have two locations of the Salt Yard, and I plan to open the westside location as soon as I have a safety plan and staff in place,” she said. Phillis said she won’t open Effex until she’s able to reopen at full capacity and provide the experience her patrons have come to love about the downtown nightclub.

The change in Bernalillo County’s designation also has a host of challenges for many restaurants. “We want to open up, but we do not have enough people,” one kitchen manager told us. He doesn’t expect to hire enough people by Friday to reopen to maximum capacity.

What does this mean for restaurants and bars this weekend?

The change from yellow to green designation for Bernalillo County will allow restaurants to increase their indoor capacity from 33 percent to 50 percent. It also allows places serving alcohol to stay open past 10 pm. Bars and clubs will now be able to reopen and operate at 25 percent capacity in outdoor spaces, although the use of their indoor space is still not permitted.

What About Your Mask?

One day after the Center for Disease Control and Prevention released updated guidance on wearing masks outside, the state also updated the current mask mandate. This means that both vaccinated and unvaccinated New Mexicans can go outside to exercise or attend a small outdoor gathering with fully vaccinated family and friends without a mask.

“I believe that New Mexico, by some time in June, will have fully vaccinated enough of our state that we can shed these restrictions and frameworks and instead move closer to a simpler new phase, from fighting to ultimately monitoring the pandemic,” said Gov. Lujan Grisham, “where businesses and commercial and community activity can safely occur at the same open level all across the state. We are close and getting closer.”

New Mexico is now in the top five states in the nation for vaccination rates per capita, with over 50 percent of the population partially vaccinated. Self-scheduling is now available for anyone over 16. To register, head to vaccineNM.org.

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