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Despite positive virus trends, all NM counties set at ‘red’ level

New Mexico’s latest virus transmission map shows all 33 counties in the high-risk red level, the most restrictive under the state’s three-tier system (courtesy Department of Health)

SANTA FE — Despite some positive COVID-19 trends in many parts of the state, all of New Mexico’s 33 counties will be in the high-risk red zone through Christmas.

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s administration on Wednesday issued an updated map based on virus spread data that will be used to determine restrictions on restaurants and retailers, as well as the maximum size of public gatherings, through Dec. 30.

While some counties came close to meeting one or both of the two criteria used in the state’s red-to-green approach, they all ultimately fell short of the state-imposed thresholds.

That includes San Miguel County, located east of Santa Fe County, which had been the only county in the less-restrictive yellow level for the last two weeks.

However, the Department of Health said in a release that 27 counties had improved over the last two weeks in at least one of the two statistical targets used by the state, while 23 counties had improved in both metrics amid a recent decline in new COVID-19 cases.

The Lujan Grisham administration adopted the red-to-green approach this month, after previously setting business restrictions on a statewide level.

The first-term Democratic governor has said the new restrictions provide an incentive for local leaders and communities to boost testing and limit the spread of the virus.

To move out of the red level, a county must hit at least one of two statistical targets — one on the share of virus tests that come back positive, the other on the number of new cases per capita each day.

Persuading more residents to get tested, for example, could help a county drive its test positivity rate below 5%, allowing it to move into the health tier that permits indoor restaurant dining at partial capacity.

Grant County, the home of Silver City, just missed hitting the test positivity rate threshold, as it recorded a 5.6% rate over the last two weeks. San Miguel and Taos Counties were also close to hitting the mark.

But most other counties were still well above the target, with Bernalillo County at 14.3%, Santa Fe County at 10.1% and Dona Ana County at 12.9%.

The state’s highest positivity rate was recorded in Lea County, which had a 35.8% test positivity rate over the proceeding two weeks.

Meanwhile, the only county that was close to hitting the other target — no more than 8 new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people — was sparsely-populated Harding County, which had a rate of 10.1 new cases per capita.

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