All 33 of New Mexico counties can now operate at the least restrictive COVID-19 level—aka turquoise—under a new public health law put into effect today.

The decision comes from the governor’s office amid declining COVID-19 cases and rising vaccination rates. A news release says that “barring exceptional circumstances…such as an unforeseen mass outbreak,” counties will remain turquoise for the duration of the state’s use of the color-coded county-by-county system. The state intends to end the county-level system along with most business restrictions once 60% of the state has been fully vaccinated (currently the percentage of fully vaccinated residents 16 years and older stands at 55.8%).

Under the system, counties have been measured against a metric of 10 or fewer cases per 100,000 population measured over a 14-day period, test positivity rates of 7.5% or less and rates of fully vaccinated residents set at 40% on May 4 and slated to rise by 5% every two weeks.

Without today’s shift, 28 counties would have been operating at the turquoise level and five—De Baca, Guadalupe, Harding, Roosevelt and Torrance counties—would have regressed to yellow. Health officials say those data points will continue to be monitored despite shifting all counties to the turquoise level. Santa Fe County currently has a case rate of six, with a 2.62% test positivity rate and 64.1% of residents are fully vaccinated.

Large disparities exist between some counties with, for instance, Los Alamos County sporting the highest percentage of fully vaccinated residents: 79% compared with Roosevelt County, which comes in 33rd with 26.70%.

During a COVID-19 news update today, Human Services Secretary David Scrase says he anticipates, in fact, “two different kinds of summer” depending on whether one is or isn’t vaccinated. This summer, those in the latter category will face far higher risk of contracting COVID-19 if they attend mass gatherings and don’t wear masks or social distance, he said.

While cases, hospitalizations and deaths continue to decline in the state overall, the picture shifts when one only looks at unvaccinated residents, as is the case in a recent Washington Post interactive story Scrase highlighted during his presentation. According to that data, for instance, current case rates for unvaccinated individuals in New Mexico are comparable to the state rates at the start of March. Hospitalization rates track close to February figures.

The increased risk comes in part because of COVID-19 variants, which transmit more rapidly than previous strains, 1.5 to two times more rapidly in the case of B.1.17, the predominant strain in the state. That particular variant also is resistant to some of the treatments the state had been using, Scrase said. Officials say New Mexico’s status with variants of concern tracks with national trends.

And, despite questions related to breakthrough cases for those who are vaccinated, state Epidemiologist Dr. Christine Ross says those case are few and far between. Specifically, the state has identified 696 breakthrough cases as of June 1 from the more than 937,000 vaccinated residents, fewer than 1%, and some of those won’t turn out to actually be breakthrough cases.

Of the 67 hospitalized breakthrough cases in New Mexico, 15 were likely to be COVID-related and of the eight deaths, investigators determined COVID-was an underlying or immediate cause.

Nearly all new cases, hospitalizations and deaths are occurring among the unvaccinated, she said.

Bottom line, she added, “the three vaccines currently authorized here in the United States are highly effective, and they are a very critical tool to continue to help us bring this pandemic under control.” Nonetheless, “no vaccine on the market is 100% effective,” whether it’s for COVID-19 or another disease. “That means vaccine breakthrough infections are expected,” she added. “The good news is that even when a vaccine breakthrough case does occur, there’s evidence that the vaccination likely reduces severity of illness that a person experiences.”

New Mexico, she said in response to a question from SFR, will be following suit with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which announced at the start of May it would only be investigating breakthrough cases that involved hospitalization or death (edit note: SFR was told otherwise last week by another state epidemiologist).

Officials also anticipate New Mexico’s $5 million vaccine lottery will help push New Mexico’s rates upward, and be particularly motivating for “this middle group of people who haven’t decide what to do,” Scrase said.

Collins also pointed to Ohio’s success—reportedly a 53% increase across age groups. “So I think there’s evidence the result is positive,” she said, adding that vaccinations are “really our hope for getting back to our normal life and being able to interact with family and friends safely and to feel comfortable. I feel like we’re at a good place: Let’s not only reach 60%, let’s surpass it.”

New Mexico health officials today reported 92 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the statewide total so far to 203,222. The health department has designated 189,877 of those cases as recovered. Having fewer than 100 cases a day has “been a long time coming,” Scrase said today. The state also is hitting all of its COVID-19 gating criteria.

Bernalillo County had 27 new cases, followed by 13 in San Juan County and eight in Lea County. Santa Fe County had four new cases.

The state also announced four additional deaths, including a male in his 20s from McKinley County who was hospitalized and had underlying conditions. There have now been 4,268 total fatalities.

As of today, 103 people are hospitalized with COVID-19.*

New cases

  • 27 new cases in Bernalillo County
  • 5 new cases in Colfax County
  • 1 new case in Curry County
  • 2 new cases in Doña Ana County
  • 3 new cases in Eddy County
  • 5 new cases in Grant County
  • 8 new cases in Lea County
  • 2 new cases in Lincoln County
  • 1 new case in McKinley County
  • 1 new case in Otero County
  • 2 new cases in Rio Arriba County
  • 5 new cases in Sandoval County
  • 13 new cases in San Juan County
  • 6 new cases in San Miguel County
  • 4 new cases in Santa Fe County
  • 1 new case in Sierra County
  • 2 new cases in Taos County
  • 1 new case in Torrance County
  • 1 new case in Union County
  • 2 new cases in Valencia County

New fatalities

  • A male in his 60s from Bernalillo County who was hospitalized
  • A male in his 80s from Curry County who had underlying conditions
  • A male in his 70s from Doña Ana County who was hospitalized and had underlying conditions
  • A male in his 20s from McKinley County who was hospitalized and had underlying conditions

Congregate facilities

The Department of Health has identified at least one positive COVID-19 case in residents and/or staff in the past 28 days at the following facilities:

  • The Aristocrat Assisted Living Center in Alamogordo
  • Aztec Healthcare in Aztec
  • Bear Canyon Rehabilitation Center in Albuquerque
  • BeeHive Homes Clovis
  • BeeHive Homes Portales
  • Casa de Oro in Las Cruces
  • Genesis Healthcare Uptown in Albuquerque
  • Genesis Rio Rancho Center
  • Genesis Silver City Care Center in Silver City
  • Good Samaritan Society Las Cruces
  • Homes with a Heart Assisted Living - Raven House in Albuquerque
  • Laguna Rainbow Care Center in Casa Blanca
  • Lakeview Christian Home in Carlsbad
  • New Mexico State Veterans Home in Truth or Consequences
  • Princeton Place in Albuquerque
  • The Rehabilitation Center of Albuquerque
  • The Rio at Las Estancias in Albuquerque
  • Sierra Health Care Center in Truth or Consequences
  • Sombrillo Nursing Home in Los Alamos
  • Sunset Vista Senior Living Center in Silver City
  • The Village at Alameda in Albuquerque
  • Vista Hermosa in Santa Fe

Statewide cases

According to a health department news release, previously reported numbers included 21 cases that have been identified as duplicates (seven in Bernalillo County, four in Doña Ana County, one in Lea County, three in McKinley County, two in Otero County, two in San Juan County and two in Sandoval County)—these have now been corrected. County totals are subject to change upon further investigation and determination of residency of individuals positive for COVID-19.

  • Bernalillo County: 58,514
  • Catron County: 95
  • Chaves County: 9,024
  • Cibola County: 2,897
  • Colfax County: 790
  • Curry County: 5,255
  • De Baca County: 172
  • Doña Ana County: 24,893
  • Eddy County: 6,880
  • Grant County: 1,731
  • Guadalupe County: 431
  • Harding County: 12
  • Hidalgo County: 363
  • Lea County: 8,368
  • Lincoln County: 1,746
  • Los Alamos County: 530
  • Luna County: 3,360
  • McKinley County: 12,346
  • Mora County: 172
  • Otero County: 4,027
  • Quay County: 518
  • Rio Arriba County: 3,677
  • Roosevelt County: 2,011
  • Sandoval County: 12,131
  • San Juan County: 15,487
  • San Miguel County: 1,376
  • Santa Fe County: 10,465
  • Sierra County: 778
  • Socorro County: 1,323
  • Taos County: 1,688
  • Torrance County: 834
  • Union County: 256
  • Valencia County: 6,812

Cases among people being held by federal agencies

  • Cibola County Correctional Center: 445
  • Otero County Federal Prison Facility: 446
  • Otero County Processing Center: 226
  • Torrance County Detention Facility: 157

Cases among people being held by the New Mexico Department of Corrections

  • Central New Mexico Correctional Facility in Valencia County: 298
  • Guadalupe County Correctional Facility: 253
  • Lea County Correctional Facility: 762
  • Northeast New Mexico Correctional Facility in Union County: 167
  • Northwest New Mexico Correctional Center in Cibola County: 128
  • Otero County Prison Facility: 473
  • Penitentiary of New Mexico in Santa Fe County: 219
  • Roswell Correctional Center: 229
  • Southern New Mexico Correctional Facility in Doña Ana County: 231
  • Springer Correctional Center in Colfax County: 151
  • Western New Mexico Correctional Facility in Cibola County: 75

*Per the health department, hospitalization figures include people who were tested elsewhere but are hospitalized in New Mexico, but don’t include people who were tested here but are hospitalized out of state.