In a press conference delivered yesterday afternoon, New Mexico Governor Lujan-Grisham explained details of the county-by-county process that will govern the state's re-opening beginning Wednesday December 2nd, when the two-week "reset" shutdown ends. The process uses a "red to green" coding system for counties based on the relative risk of transmission in each county as indicated by two markers in the state's gating criteria as measured during the previous two-week period: a test positivity rate of 5% or lower and a number of cases per 100,000 residents of 8 or fewer. With this process, counties will be able to move towards reopening as they meet the criteria for these sequenced "red-yellow-green" stages. The three levels and the criteria for each are:
While cases have leveled off somewhat in recent days, Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Scrase emphasized that case numbers are still very high. New Mexico now ranks fifth nationally in the number of COVID cases per capita, with Gallup and Roswell amongst the highest ranking of metro areas nationally. At the same time, many of our state hospitals are already operating at full or over-capacity. Nevertheless, both he and the governor expressed guarded optimism that this staged "red to green" system, combined with the ongoing COVID-safe practices such as mask-wearing and social distancing by all New Mexicans, will allow the state to avoid or at least manage a further surge in the coming months.
Local leadership can assist in moving counties forward from red to green by exemplifying, encouraging, and, when needed, enforcing COVID safe practices in their communities. At the individual level, modeling mask wearing, giving shout outs to NM Safe Certified businesses, and promoting frequent testing through example can all help encourage safe public health habits. Municipalities can distribute basic PPE (e.g. masks) at local businesses and engage in frequent, community outreach, utilizing multiple media channels, including platforms targeting the unconnected portion of the population. And, when needed, non-compliant entities can be clearly reminded that adherence to COVID safe behaviors is the only way we have of preventing deaths and moving our region and our local economy forward to the next, "greener," stage of re-opening.
You can view the complete slideshow for the press conference here.
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