Governor talks tiers
Red to green tiers based on whether county is meeting gating criteria.
Last updated 12/1/2020 at 4:28pm
SANTA FE — After the state released an outline of the three tiers for reopening counties last Friday, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham addressed the public on Monday to discuss details. Implementation of the new health and safety guidelines by color tier will begin today.
The colors of the three tiers roughly follow the same format that schools were under to reopen — red is not close to reopening, yellow is closer, and green means good to go.
The tiers are based on whether a county is meeting COVID-19 gating criteria of less than eight daily cases per 100,000 residents and test positivity of 5% or lower. Green counties meet both, yellow counties meet one and red counties meet neither.
As of Tuesday, Curry County was at 129 cases per 100,000, with a positivity rate at 27.7%. Roosevelt County was at 100 cases per 100,000 and 19.1% positivity rate.
Lujan Grisham noted that after the two-week shutdown the state had there would be additional benefits even for counties in the red. These include reopening outdoor dining, close proximity businesses like gyms, and non-essential businesses all at 25% capacity or less than 75 people.
“This is what we believe is a mechanism that will allow New Mexico to sort of move through the virus, protect New Mexicans, and provide a little bit more economic certainty for the entire state as a whole. We're calling it Red to Green,” Lujan Grisham said.
She said the stringent requirements of the green level are necessary because, “we (New Mexicans) have less healthcare capacity than other states for our residents.” Though the standards for fully reopening are high, Lujan Grisham said she has “complete confidence that we can do this.”
Of the state's 33 counties, 32 were in the red and Los Alamos County was in the yellow. Lujan Grisham said the idea was for the state to mostly move through the levels together.
“We've got three areas in which we will look at the state to determine what kinds of things could be available and open and what kinds of things, restrictions, would still need to be in place in order to protect as many people as we can, to prevent our hospital systems from being overwhelmed, and to move the state in as cohesive a way as possible; but allow some local flexibility in that regard if those communities can get their constituents and residents to work a little bit more closely together,” she said.
Information on what level/color each county is in will be updated biweekly — upcoming dates are Dec. 16 and 30, and Jan. 6 and 20. The governor said doing it this way will allow data analysts to spot trends and correctly assess each county's status and avoid making pre-emptive decisions.
When a county moves forward to a less restrictive level the guidelines for the new level can be implemented immediately. If a county goes backward into a more restrictive level businesses will have 48 hours to plan and begin working under the new guidelines.
“The goal isn't to be moving (back and forth) through these all the time. The goal is to be steadily moving towards green,” Lujan Grisham said.
Lujan Grisham also mentioned another level called “green-plus,” which she said will happen when the state has “really learned to live with the virus, and we can open up many more things in a reasonable fashion.”
During the address, Human Services Secretary Dr. David Scrase noted a re-emergence of high case counts from mid-November to now in the northwest and southeast corners of the state, the later including Curry County.
He also pointed out that on Sunday, New Mexico was ranked fifth in the country for highest per capita cases with a 90% increase in hospitalizations and a 60% increase in deaths. On Tuesday, New Mexico had gone down to sixth place with 88 cases per 100,000 residents respectively.
Scrase noted that included on the list of top 20 metro areas in the United States with the highest number of new cases per capita were Gallup, Roswell, Lubbock and Hobbs. Gallup and Roswell remain the top two in the state with 180 and 178 new daily cases, respectively, per 100,000 residents.
Scrase also said 60% of patients on ventilators for COVID-19 “will not get off of the ventilator alive.” Data shows that risk of death after hospitalization because of the virus was up to 6%.
Scrase and Lujan Grisham commended New Mexicans for an apparent drop in travel over the last week, which they hoped meant people stayed in their immediate circles for Thanksgiving.
Scrase voiced concern about a future spike in cases, noting that the July 4 and Labor Day holidays resulted in statewide rises in case numbers four weeks after. He said if Thanksgiving did result in people expanding their “bubbles” then another spike is likely to happen around Christmas.