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Seven counties now in ‘yellow’ restriction level

Pharmacy Manager Salina Shannon and pharmacist Angelica Portillo check a safety indicator to ensure that the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine stayed at the proper temperature as it was shipped to the Sam’s Club Pharmacy at 10600 Coors Blvd Bypass NW on Tuesday. (Jim Thompson/Albuquerque Journal)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Seven New Mexico counties are now in the “yellow” level of pandemic-related business restrictions, the state Department of Health announced Wednesday.

The tiered restrictions are determined by two-week averages of new daily per-capita cases and test positivity rates.

Colfax, Grant, Los Alamos, San Miguel, Socorro and Sierra counties joined Union County in the “yellow” level. All those counties currently have a virus positivity rate below 5%.

Under the yellow-level restrictions, essential retail businesses may operate at 33% of maximum capacity.

Restaurants can operate at 25% of capacity for indoor dining, which is prohibited in the red-level restrictions, and at 75% capacity for outdoor dining.

Businesses that serve alcohol must close by 10 p.m., an hour later than under red-level restrictions.

Occupancy limits for houses of worship and hotels are also slightly higher for counties under yellow-level restrictions.

Harding County is the state’s only region in the “green” level. That county has met state thresholds on both metrics of new per-capita virus cases and test positivity.

The gating requirement for per-capita cases is 8 per 100,000 people during the most recent two-week period.

According to an NMDOH news release, 28 of the state’s 33 counties recorded lower average daily per-capita rates of new cases in the past two weeks, and 29 counties saw decreasing test positivity rates.

“In addition, the state’s most populous counties — Bernalillo, Doña Ana, Sandoval, San Juan and Santa Fe — each improved dramatically in both of the two health gating criteria metrics,” the release said.

But those counties have not yet met the gating criteria and remain under the strictest red-level business restrictions.

Lincoln, Luna and Taos counties all reported increases in per-capita new daily case rates and test positivity rates.

The state reported 755 new virus cases on Wednesday, according to a DOH update.

The state also tallied 27 deaths, including a man in his 20s from San Juan County, who was hospitalized and had underlying conditions, and a Lea County man in his 30s who had been hospitalized.

There have been a total of 3,198 deaths related to COVID-19 in New Mexico.

There are 586 people hospitalized with the virus.

New Mexico has begun vaccinating people older than 75 and people over the age of 16 who are at risk of severe illness from COVID-19. But limited supplies have hampered those efforts.

Melanie Mozes, Presbyterian Healthcare Services spokeswoman, said Presbyterian “unexpectedly received fewer vaccines than anticipated” for the week of Jan. 25.

That resulted in hundreds of upcoming vaccination appointments needing to be rescheduled, Mozes said.

“Vaccine supply remains limited across the nation, and we continue to work collaboratively with the New Mexico Department of Health to respond to the needs of our communities,” Mozes wrote in an email to the Journal. “Patients who received their first dose from a Presbyterian facility will receive an outreach to schedule an appointment for their second dose within the recommended time frame of the current CDC guidelines. We understand the stress of this situation for community members and are doing everything we can, in partnership with NMDOH, to address these concerns as quickly as possible.”

Dr. Tracie Collins, secretary-designate of the Department of Health, said Monday that New Mexico is receiving between 25,000 and 35,000 vaccine doses each week. Collins added that “we ultimately need more vaccine” to keep pace with the demand.

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