We’ve received a number of questions about the newest state “Red to Green” health order and what it means for Carlsbad residents when it goes into effect Wednesday. Eddy County is one of the 32 New Mexico Counties currently in the “Red,” with only Los Alamos currently qualifying as “Yellow.”
Under the Red level, most businesses and similar facilities can re-open at a limited capacity, but restaurants are only able to do outdoor dining. As has often been the case, small businesses are the ones suffering the most.
Within the scope of this order and effective Wednesday, the City of Carlsbad will re-open its golf course, tennis courts, the Bob Forrest Youth Sports Complex, the library, museum and Riverwalk Center. Capacity will be limited and COVID safe measures and requirements will be in place.
One of the biggest changes from moving from “Red” to “Yellow” is that restaurants can re-open for indoor dining. One of two conditions have to be met in order to make this move. One category is your county’s “Cases Per 100,000” rating, while the other is your county’s case positivity rate. Counties can move into “Green” by meeting both criteria.
According to the state, the New Mexico Department of Health is using a population of 58,252 when estimating the “Cases Per 100,000” rate for Eddy County. Since our listed population is less than 100,000, they multiply the daily number of COVID-19 positives by about 1.7 to get our Cases Per 100,000 rating. While we believe our county’s population has grown well past this number, that’s what is currently being used.
With a goal of 8 cases per 100,000, this comes out to needing an average of about 4.7 cases per day for the county. We are currently at an average of 86.7 cases per 100,000, though the numbers will be updated Wednesday.
The second requirement is what’s called positivity rate. It is a comparison between the positive COVID-19 tests reported to the number of COVID-19 tests administered, also averaged over two weeks. Therefore, if 100 people take COVID-19 tests and 10 are positive, there would be a positivity rate of 10 percent. The positivity goal is 5% and Eddy County’s current average is 21.50%, according to the DOH.
Multiple individuals have already pointed out some of their concerns with this system. A statistician concluded that most counties could be in the “Red” for up to 30 weeks. Additionally, even if a county reaches the “Green” category, most businesses are still limited to 50% and some, such as “close contact recreational facilities” must still remain closed. There were other issues pointed out during Monday’s press conference related to county population, such as the fact that a single positive COVID case in Harding County counts as 143 positives using the “Cases Per 100,000” formula.
We remain committed to reducing the spread of COVID-19. The City of Carlsbad has tough policies in place for its employees and we have been advocating for increased mask wearing in this community. We need to take this seriously and get our numbers down.
However, will another 30 weeks of lockdown actually help resolve this issue? And, if so, at what cost to local businesses? The current “Red to Green” system is unworkable and overly complicated. We urge the state to develop a formula focusing on issues such as case severity and health care needs.
Carlsbad Mayor Dale Janway