New Mexico’s “Red-Yellow-Green framework” for aligning county-level requirements and guidelines with virus risk has been modified to permit more day-to-day and commercial activities, reflecting the improving Covid-19 outlook across the state, as vaccine distribution continues.

As of Feb. 24, 10 counties—including Torrance County—are at the Green Level; 19 counties—including Santa Fe and Bernalillo counties—are operating at the Yellow Level; and four New Mexico counties remain at the Red Level.

The framework assigns a risk level and a corresponding color to counties based on “key health metrics” over a two-week time frame. The health metrics include a positive test rate that is below 5% and a new case rate of fewer than 8 cases per 100,000 residents.

A county that meets one of the criteria may operate at the Yellow Level, a county that meets both may operate at the Green Level, and counties that meet neither of the criteria operate at the Red Level.

The framework includes a new least restrictive level, where all categories of business can operate indoors with minimal occupancy limitations, depending on the risk level of the activity. A county will reach the “Turquoise Level” by meeting key health criteria for four consecutive weeks and effectively “graduating out of the Red-Yellow-Green framework.”

The framework limits large gatherings, that could have the effect of slowing the state’s progress in controlling the virus. It is designed to match a local area’s decreasing risk level with loosened requirements, and vice versa, and to balance the need to contain the virus with the need for standard localized “openness” amid this stage of the pandemic.

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That means that if cases increase, a county could move from green to red or yellow.

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

The updated health order also include changes to businesses that had previously been categorized as “close-contact recreational facilities,” which will be re-categorized and permitted to operate with 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 residents, will now be open to camping with reservations and day-use for all.

Previously the state public health order had categorized certain businesses requiring longer periods of close contact among patrons as “close-contact recreational facilities,” which were closed at all risk levels.

Those businesses will be re-categorized and permitted to operate in a manner that corresponds to the risk level of the county.

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“Large entertainment venues” are defined as any publicly or privately owned venue typically or actually used to host large audiences for the purposes of entertainment or amusement, including racetracks, concert venues, movie theaters, performance venues, professional sports venues and theaters.

At the Turquoise Level, these venues may operate at up to 33% of maximum occupancy indoors and up to 75% of maximum occupancy of any outdoor spaces.

At the Green Level, these venues may operate at up to 25% of maximum occupancy indoors and up to 50% of maximum occupancy of any outdoor spaces.

At the Yellow Level, these venues may operate at up to 25% of any outdoor spaces but may not permit patrons to enter the indoor portions of the venue except for the limited purpose of using a restroom; employees may occupy the indoor portion of the facility to the extent necessary to operate the outdoor portion. At the Red Level, these venues may not operate.

“Recreational facilities” are defined in the public health order as any publicly or privately owned facility typically or actually used for recreational activities capable of bringing persons within close proximity of one another, including aquariums, amusement parks, arcades, basketball courts, baseball fields, bowling alleys, botanical gardens, family entertainment centers, football fields, go-kart courses, golf courses, ice-skating rinks, museums with interactive displays or exhibits, miniature golf courses, ski areas, soccer fields, swimming pools, tennis courts, youth programs, trampoline parks and zoos.

At the Turquoise Level, these facilities may operate at up to 50% of the maximum occupancy indoors and up to 75% of the maximum occupancy of any outdoor spaces.

At the Green Level, these facilities may operate at up to 25% of the maximum occupancy indoors and up to 50% of the maximum occupancy of any outdoor spaces.

At the Yellow Level, these facilities may operate at up to 33% of maximum occupancy for outdoor spaces; employees may occupy the indoor portion of the facility to the extent necessary to operate the outdoor portion.

At the Red Level, these facilities may operate at 25% of maximum occupancy of outdoor spaces; employees may occupy the indoor portion of the facility to the extent necessary to operate the outdoor portion.

“Bars and clubs” are defined as any business that generates more than half of its revenue from the sale of alcohol for on-premises consumption.

At the Turquoise Level, bars and clubs may operate at 33% of the maximum occupancy of indoor spaces and up to 75% of any outdoor spaces.

At the Green Level, bars and clubs may operate at 25% of any outdoor spaces; employees may occupy the indoor portion of the facility to the extent necessary to operate the outdoor portion. At the Yellow and Red levels, bars and clubs may not operate.

For more information on the categories and definitions for each risk level visit cv.nmhealth.org/redtogreen.