As many Carlsbad residents have already observed, Eddy County remained in the “Red” category in terms of the state’s COVID-19 gating criteria, while Lea and Chaves Counties have moved into the Yellow. Restaurants in Yellow counties can open up for some indoor dining, as per the state’s executive health order. Results are recalculated every two weeks and are based on the previous two weeks.
We were very close- the New Mexico Department of Health reported a 5.8% positivity rate, while a 5% positivity rate is one of the possible requirements. Unfortunately, being close doesn’t help our restaurants and other business owners by allowing them to open for indoor dining for the next two weeks. Positivity is based on the number of positive COVID-19 tests compared to the total number of COVID-19 tests.
The other statistic being examined is “Cases Per 100,000.” In this category, Eddy County was listed at 17.7, with a target of 8. We will become “Yellow” if we meet either the positivity rate or the “Cases Per 100,000” rate and “Green” if we meet both of them. If we can continue to move in this direction, we expect to be Yellow or even Green very soon.
However, given the increase in the number of vaccines being distributed and the significant downward trend in COVID-19 cases, we believe it is certainly past time for all New Mexico communities to be allowed to open up much more significantly. What we can do on our end is to continue to wear masks when appropriate and practice social distancing to keep our numbers down.
Additionally, the COVID-19 daily count for Eddy County went up 100 yesterday in the Department of Health’s report, which caused great concern. The previous day’s COVID-19 count had been two. At the same time, the number of COVID-19 tests for Eddy County went up by 3,982 on the state’s dashboard. Many Eddy County residents were puzzled about what caused this sudden spike in data.
We have spoken with the Department of Health and we were told that around 99% of yesterday’s spike in numbers was related to an audit or backlog of older data by the NM DOH. We were told that these numbers would not have an impact, positive or negative, on Eddy County’s current or recent gating criteria.
The sudden change in numbers caused a great deal of confusion and concern – especially when this information was released, without clarification, on the same day that new gating criteria was released. Everyone is paying very close attention to COVID-19 numbers right now, so numbers representing cases from months ago should be presented in a different way. People’s livelihoods are on the line, and presenting this data without enough clarification hurts credibility. An increase in the number of tests for the previous two weeks, for example, might have put Eddy County in the “Yellow” category by changing our positivity percentage.
We’ve seen some improvements in terms of vaccines being provided to Eddy County. The New Mexico Department of Health reports that 12.5% of our residents over 16 have now received at least one vaccine and we are no longer the county with the lowest percentage of vaccines.
One other item of positive news – state parks are now open to all visitors again, and camping will resume at state parks later this week. This will hopefully provide a little boost to our tourism industry, especially at Brantley Lake State Park.
Carlsbad Mayor Dale Janway