By Associated Press - Thursday, April 22, 2021

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) - Health officials in New Mexico are considering changes to the familiar color-coded dial system that determines county responses to the coronavirus pandemic, including public health restrictions.

The New Mexico Health and Human Services Department is now testing new methods after nine counties on Wednesday regressed to levels that warranted tighter limitations on business and restaurant capacities.

Health officials said the primary reason for the rise in COVID-19 infections is because of an increase in new confirmed cases. But Department Secretary Dr. David Scrase urged residents not to get discouraged.

“We know that the test positivity rate will likely go up as more people get vaccinated, so we are reconsidering 5% or less metric you can see. We also, now with the vaccine on board, we can tolerate a higher number of cases,” Scrase said, noting that the department is reconsidering the 168 seven-day rolling daily case count.

Currently, the state assesses risk based on the average test positivity in a county and the per capita daily count of newly confirmed cases. But Scrase said the state hopes to announce a new method in two weeks, which proposes revisions to the test positivity rate and daily case count, removing the metric for PPE supply and adding county vaccination rates.

“While we are not happy younger individuals are more out and about and mixing with each other more and spreading COVID … as they are and we have those variants in the state … that are likely to spread more, I think we are experiencing an unbelievably positive benefit from all the great work New Mexico Department of Health Secretary Dr. Tracie Collins and state is doing to get New Mexico vaccinated,” Scrase said.

More than 48% of New Mexico’s population has received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. About 32% of the state is fully vaccinated.

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