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Apr. 28—New Mexico is on the path to reopening by the end of June, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said Wednesday.
The state will end its county-by-county color code system once 60 percent of eligible residents are fully vaccinated. Nearly 42 percent of New Mexicans already have been inoculated against the coronavirus.
State health officials expect 60 percent of the population will be fully vaccinated in about nine weeks.
"We are conquering COVID," Lujan Grisham said during an online news briefing.
"It will be a lifelong journey but we should always be winning against COVID and in fact New Mexico is," she added.
Dr. David Scrase, the state's human services secretary, said New Mexico will adjust its health guidelines to reflect new guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which, among other things, will allow residents to bike, jog or walk outside without having to wear a mask if they are fully vaccinated.
Under the state's current health metrics, a county would become turquoise — the least restrictive designation — after averaging eight or fewer new cases per 100,000 people and 5 percent or fewer positive tests over two straight reporting periods.
Under revised metrics that will take effect Friday, turquoise counties will have an average of 10 or fewer new cases per 100,000 people and 7 percent or fewer positive tests for four consecutive weeks.
The state also will use vaccination rates to determine whether a county is red, yellow, green or turquoise. It will start with a vaccination rate of 40 percent and that number will increase 5 percent every other week.
"We needed to adjust this framework to adapt to these [rising vaccination rates], and we saw the opportunity to add vaccines," Scrase said.
Republicans applauded the move but said it was overdue.
"I am disappointed that politics got in the way of this self-evident reform to the reopening framework," Senate Minority Leader Greg Baca of Belen said in a statement. "We have been shouting for months that the people in our communities are suffering because of these continued illogical and unscientific protocols. While I am thankful that the Governor has finally taken action to remedy some of these issues, I hope it is not too little, too late."
Sen. Cliff Pirtle, a Roswell Republican, said: "My message to the Governor on behalf of most citizens of New Mexico is, it's about time. Though my constituents would prefer a full reopening of the state, this change to the calculation is an important update to the reopening framework."
As of April 22, the state's seven-day rolling average of new infections was 199, just above its goal of 168.
"We've entered a new plateau," Scrase said, noting the state's caseload has dropped dramatically since its peak this past winter.
Dr. Tracie Collins, the state's health secretary, said 57.5 percent of New Mexicans have been partially vaccinated and nearly 900,000 residents have registered to get the vaccine.
"We really are in the home stretch," Lujan Grisham said.