No more lines outside grocery stores.

More seats for restaurant diners indoors.

Santa Fe County has gone green — opening the door for life to get a lot closer to normal a full year after the coronavirus pandemic turned it upside down.

The state Department of Health announced Wednesday the county’s spread of the coronavirus had declined below critical thresholds, allowing it to advance from the yellow status to green in the state’s four-tier, color-coded system of business restrictions.

If case numbers hold steady or continue to decline over the next four weeks, the county could move up to the state’s least-restrictive turquoise level.

It was exciting news for Violet Crown general manager Peter Grendle, who announced the Railyard movie theater will soon open for the first time since the state’s initial COVID-19 shutdown in March 2020. The theater plans to operate on a new model, offering moviegoers a more personal viewing experience.

“We have been waiting for the ability to reopen,” Grendle said Wednesday. “Today, we’re green. We get to pull the trigger.”

The city of Santa Fe also lauded the news and announced it was rolling back the mayor’s COVID-19 emergency proclamation to keep it in line with the state’s public health order for the county.

The change means the city will reopen its ice rink at the Genoveva Chavez Community Center on Saturday on a limited basis. Skaters can reserve a spot in a freestyle coaching session or adult hockey session. The rink also will be available for private group sessions, the city said in a news release.

“It’s been a year of compassion and of sacrifice, a year of loss and of community service,” Mayor Alan Webber said in statement. “My thanks go to everyone in our city — our healthcare providers and essential workers who have carried us through this unprecedented time.

“Today we made it to Green and our next goal is Turquoise,” Webber added. “We’ll get there the same way we got to Green: We’ll keep wearing masks in public, use hand sanitizer and practice physical distancing.”

Santa Fe County was one of 13 New Mexico counties that improved, while four counties dropped to a lower level, according to a news release from the Governor’s Office.

Seven counties in the state now have low-risk turquoise status, and seven are at the medium-risk green level, while 18 are at the high-risk yellow level. Just one, Guadalupe, is in the very high-risk red zone.

Over a two-week stretch, Santa Fe County averaged 5.9 new cases daily per 100,000 people, compared to a state target of 8 cases, and had a fairly low rate — 1.4 percent — of positive coronavirus tests. The state’s threshold rate for test positivity is 5 percent. A county must meet both criteria to reach the green level.

In the preceding two-week period, Santa Fe County narrowly missed advancing from yellow to green. It had a qualifying positivity rate of 2.01 percent but averaged 8.3 daily cases per 100,000 people.



The improvement comes as the state continues to roll out coronavirus vaccines at an increasing pace. More than 26 percent of state and county residents have received at least their first dose, state data shows, while 15.1 percent of people statewide and 14.4 percent in the county are fully vaccinated.

The numbers are likely to jump as the state works to get all educators, school staff and child care workers vaccinated before the end of the month as part of a Biden administration initiative.

Santa Fe County’s green designation means essential retail businesses previously restricted to 33 percent of customer capacity can now operate at 50 percent of capacity.

Restaurants that have undergone the state’s COVID-19-safe certification program can now offer seating at 50 percent capacity indoors, compared to 33 percent under the yellow status. They may continue serving customers outdoors at 75 percent capacity.

“That makes everybody’s life a lot easier,” said Kohnami manager Aaron Moskowitz. “The servers actually have a chance to make money, and hopefully the owners do, too.”

Paloma did limited takeout during the shutdown and reopened March 2 with indoor dining, owner Marja Martin said.

“I feel deeply ready to reopen slowly and safely,” Martin said. “It’s hard to operate a restaurant profitably at 25 percent. It’s hard to operate a restaurant profitably at 100 percent.

“We opened at 25 percent and felt busy,” Martin added. “Tuesday to Saturday was super busy.”

The green level allows the Santa Fe Opera to double its capacity from about 525 to 1,050 of the venue’s 2,126 seats.

General Director Robert Meya said that for the indefinite future, however, ticket sales for summer season performances will keep seating at 25 percent capacity to allow for social distancing.

The Santa Fe Opera is selling tickets in pods of two to six people. Closer to the season’s opening night, the ticketing computer will determine how to configure the pods to ensure all operagoers have 6 feet of social distancing.

Grendle said he was the only employee on board at Violet Crown from March 17 until late February. He’s now ready to see the theater open “in a safe way,” he said.

On March 19, it will launch RSVP Cinema, in which groups of up to 13 people can rent out a theater and choose from about 100 movies, including some current releases.

The Governor’s Office cautioned that the virus remains a threat and that people should continue seeking out coronavirus tests — particularly if they feel symptomatic, have traveled or have been indoors with groups of people without wearing a face mask.

“Getting tested not only helps slow the spread,” the office said in a news release, “it helps counties maintain their risk levels and advance to less restrictive levels when the viral risk in the community is sufficiently reduced.”

(35) comments

Paula Lozar

For all the people carping because they feel "young people" are unfairly getting too much of the available vaccine, note that the FIRST priority was doctors, nurses, health care workers, home health aides, etc., etc., most of whom are under 65. It's not all about co-morbidity or age.

DANIEL GOWE

WOW! Glad to here everything is getting back to normal.....Nothing for me yet. I'm in the 65 and over crowd with no underlying conditions. In New Mexico, were so far behind the 65 and over curve that people are forced to "fend for themselves" and "scatter to the wind" out of state (Texas or Colorado) where you can get a fix at any drive up window! I'll hang out in the bunker for a little while longer to see which why this thing goes. If I get in a pinch, I'll head for the border!

John Martinez

I am so glad that the Governor has provided this map in color-coded areas, so simple to follow for us peasants. Green go outside, red stay inside, yellow maybe not, turquoise go eat..... just so you all know the Flu with it's magical vaccines still kill people many years later.

Jason Yurtail

Thanks to those that commented on my post. For those people looking for the data of what ages have received a vaccine, please look at the bottom of the DOH site: https://cvvaccine.nmhealth.org/public-dashboard.html in the second to the last panel is the data by age group. I think my math is right that slightly great than 50% of vaccine has been delivered to 16-59 year olds.

Mike Johnson

Yes, your math is correct Mr Yurtail, again NM can be congratulated for getting lots of shots into arms and using every shot they have quickly, the problem is they are NOT following the science of the CDC guidance that ages 65+ should be the priority group right now, as the data show, they are NOT. NM has 1/2 the % vaccination rate of 65+ that the nation as a whole does, period. So my question remains, why are they not following the science? I heard one pencil neck public health type say in a news conference when asked about the low 65+ vaccinations compared to CDC guidance, "well, we have our own rules here"......and NM has now moved into 13th worst place in the US for deaths per capita.....wonder why?

Jason Yurtail

Thanks for checking my math Mike. I really do think that a journalist should do a piece that explains why people 65+ are not prioritized in NM. I have the same understanding that you do about the nationwide CDC guidance that 65+ should be prioritized

John Cook

You don't need to wonder why NM has a high death rate if you follow the science. We had huge outbreaks in San Juan and McKinley counties among particularly vulnerable groups at the very beginning of the pandemic. Before the Governor's lockdown and, most importantly, before improvements in treatments. Big early outbreaks had very high death rates. Later big outbreaks, in all other states came when advances in treatment lowered the death rates. Take a look at our death rates in the past 6 months and they are in line.

Mike Johnson

So your theory is our death rate is high because of the high % of Native Americans NM has? I have debated that theory before, and it doesn't hold water. NM is third in % of Native Americans, at 10.75%. The 2 states with much larger % of Native Americans is Oklahoma and Alaska, at 13.2% and 20.3% respectively. In addition, Okla. has over 500,000 Native Americans, and NM has 1/2 that, Alaska has 150,000. Both Oklahoma and Alaska have much lower deaths per capita than NM does, Okla.'s is 40% less, while Alaska's is 70% lower. So no, sorry that doesn't explain it. And MLG shutdown this state on March 23, closing all non-essential businesses and stopping all travel. She did not wait very long to close all businesses, however she did take a very long time before she focused on congregant care facilities, which probably cost many lives unnecessarily.

Khal Spencer

When I filled out the online DOH form, it asked for age and comorbidities. It would not surprise me if a large fraction of the younger folks have one or more comorbidities such as obesity, drug use, diabetes, cardiovascular problems, etc. Could that explain the large number of doses given to folks under 65?

My wife, who is...um...I guess one does not give one's spouse's age out in the newspaper, got her first shot yesterday. There were younger people in line with her and not all of them looked like awesome specimen. I suspect some comorbidities there but not my business to ask them.

Khal Spencer

Of course, no one verified our form when we filled it out. At least not that I know of. I didn't sign a release giving DOH permission to grill my family doctor about my health.

Mike Johnson

I found it interesting that a couple of weeks ago the health secretary announced a fine structure for people lying on their registration forms about conditions. $3000-$5000 as I recall, and saying RXs, notes from your doctor, etc. were acceptable forms of "proof". My experience is like yours, don't ask, don't tell, like a mask mandate, it only works if it is enforced, and nothing is, so let the games begin........remember this IS NM....

Khal Spencer

[thumbup]

Khal Spencer

I was getting tired of yellow anyway. Its kinda like the Catholic idea of purgatory: neither Heaven nor H-e-l-l.

Lee Vigil

[beam]

Lee DiFiore

Has it come to anyone's attention that there is currently no path for NM to be 100% open? Best we can do is some odd shade of blue. This governor will not easily or readily give up the power she has seized in the last year.

Russell Scanlon

Wow—there is actually good news for the nation, New Mexico, and Santa Fe and yet the comments are overwhelmed by miscreants and QAnon drivel—not to mention the usual “bash anything Democrat” folks.

I fully expect all of you to refuse your stimulus check in the name of your Orange Master. You still don’t understand that he doesn’t care one speck about you but you continue to bow at his slimy feet.

PHILIP V.

Russell- My comment was not about Trump or the dems but rather responding to the "actual journalists" comment and pointing out the disservice and damage done by our "silent" media. I appreciate there is good news for the country and NM but you (like the media) should at least scratch below the surface.

Russell Scanlon

I guess the phrase “Biden’s compromised state of mind” and all the other QAnon morsels had me thinking that you were maybe not a serious person. It’s not that I am hyper partisan. I just have an extra sensitive BS detector. Also, I try against all odds to think positively and that includes processing good news without looking for monsters under the bed.

The terms “fake news”, “mainstream media” etc. need to be retired. Sometimes, “Fake news” is just news you don’t like. I think Donald Trump proved that beyond a shadow of a doubt.

John Cook

Now there you go again, Scanlon. Injecting truth into carper central.

Jason Yurtail

Something isn't right in these numbers. If you look at the DOH site they give a breakdown of who has gotten each of the 670K shots of vaccine. If my math is right, 338K shots (50%) went to 16-59 year olds. There are definitely not that many healthcare workers and first responders. I suspect that a lot of games are being played to get on "special lists" in NM. Pretty pictures by the DOH, but probably just the same old nepotism and dirty deals as prior administrations. How about an article on this SF New Mexican?

John Cook

Newspapers are written by actual journalists. Journalists want facts, not conspiracy theories. What you 'suspect' cuts no ice. I expect journalists to inquire into all the points you raise. But don't expect such a story unless your 'suspicions' prove to be true. Which I, for one, doubt.

Angel Ortiz

Wow! Conspiracy theories now added to the discussion. No worries John, the Texans are on their way to NM and our numbers will soon be back up.

Mike Johnson

Well said Mr. Yurtail. All you need do is ask people how they got shots. Few say they got a text or email to get an appointment, and many of those found the appointments full when they responded with the event code. I know for a fact certain groups are calling their cronies and customers and giving them event codes to get shots, and many places are just calling their cronies and relatives to say come down and get a shot, we have extras, etc. This is NM and corruption, cronyism, and nepotism are rampant here in all things, why should this blind lottery/Hunger Game be any different? They will never explain how they select people to get the appointments, and we know those over 65 are being vaccinated at very low rates compared to younger people, the data is there, this is not speculation or conspiracy theories. Why doesn't the press report on this process? Politics.

Lee Vigil

Jason Yurtail, t seems that you're confused by the graph. The graph is showing cases/infections per thousand (or whatever other metric). It ISN'T counting the number of inoculations/injections. You have to read the data and take it for what it is, not try and fit it into your world view. The graph is showing that the number of infections are down to safe levels. It's good news! You should be happy.

Pat Wright

If someone is gaming the system it is probably the public. The questionnaire allows people to select their occupations and conditions. The only part that gets checked is perhaps the age. By now we've all heard about the young yoga instructor that checked the "educator" box and got an early shot. The system depends on good,honest data.

Mike Johnson

Well said, and good honest people, all in short supply in NM. They do seem to check your drivers's license, but that's it. You can lie and cheat on this all you want. And with all the "conditions" allowed, who's to know you are.

Lee DiFiore

While NM is strutting around touting its traffic signal system for managing (?) the virus, TX is completely open and now allowing anyone 50 and older to get the vaccine. Guess there will be more New Mexicans headed East, for a variety of reasons.

zach miller

anyone who chooses to leave a state that took on out of state patients because our hospitals still have room, for the state that can't even deliver energy to consumers when it gets a little chilly is asking for whatever comes to them.

zach miller

NM vaccination percentage: 26%

TX vaccination percentage: 16%

you: tExAs BeTtEr

Lee Vigil

[beam] Ignorance is bliss [beam]

Mike Johnson

Yes, the country now has over 60% of 65+ people vaccinated, in NM it is 30%, why is NM prioritizing the youngest, least vulnerable people?

John Cook

New Mexico isn't prioritizing the least vulnerable. Read the guidelines. New Mexico has the best vaccination rate of any state. Sorry for the carpers but this state is doing well. Congratulations to the Governor and her Administration.

Mike Johnson

Look at the data. The CDC said early on, states should prioritize 65+, now there are 60+% of 65+ vaccinated nationally, 30% in NM, do you not believe the data? Who do you think are getting the shots if the 65+ are not? 80% of deaths are in 65+ in NM, what age group is more vulnerable?

Carolyn Cc

It keeps being repeated, but by what metric is NM ‘the best’ for the vaccine?

Lee Vigil

Carolyn Cerf - according to the CDC (U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) 26% of NM's population has had at least one shot of the vaccine, while 15% are fully vaccinated and 85% of the vaccine that's been delivered has been administered. Part of the success is because the state's population is small, but the state is also incredibly efficient at administering the vaccine. It's REALLY good news. You should be happy to live in a state that is concerned with public health. NM is number one for a change and everyone seems to be complaining.

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