Carlsbad Department of Development Executive Director (CDOD) John Waters admitted relief when the State of New Mexico announced Eddy County had reached COVID-19 gating criteria which would loosen restrictions on local businesses.
Eddy County was one of 13 counties in New Mexico that moved to lesser COVID-19 restrictions Wednesday. Daily cases of the virus dropped to 16.70 out of 100,000 and the positivity rate declined to 3.79%, the New Mexico Department of Health (DOH) noted.
Eddy County moved from red — the most restricted COVID-19 level enacted by the State — to yellow, which means restaurants may have 33% of maximum capacity for indoor dining and 75% of maximum capacity for outdoors.
Large entertainment venues are allowed to seat 25% of maximum capacity of any outdoor space.
“I’m glad to see the numbers coming down and we’re getting back to trying to find some sort of normalcy in this crazy year,” Waters said.
The state’s county-by-county system uses key health metrics – the per-capita daily incidence of new COVID-19 cases and average COVID-19 test positivity within county borders – to determine the level of public health risk and requirement for each county, read a DOH news release.
A county that meets one criterion may operate at the yellow level; a county that meets both may operate at the green level. A county that has met both for two consecutive biweekly map updates may operate at the turquoise level.
Waters said businesses in Carlsbad and Eddy County were negatively affected by COVID-19, and ultimately may not recover from the extended period of closure.
“There are some businesses that may not survive what we’ve gone through,” he said.
“Help them get started by going into their establishments and eating or purchasing something because these folks have been hurting quite a bit and restaurants especially and movie theaters and other folks like that.”
Tommy Salsberry, general manager of the La Quinta Inns and Suites at 4020 National Parks Highway, said reservations started increasing at the hotel once restrictions were loosened.
“We look forward to the increase in business and hopefully everybody in town benefits from it,” he said.
Salsberry said La Quinta’s occupancy rate dropped when COVID-19 restrictions were enacted just after the first cases were reported in New Mexico in 2020, and 75% of La Qunita’s staff had to be laid off due to the lack of business.
“Now we’re struggling with finding people to either come back to work or willing to come back to work. Here in Carlsbad you have quite a few new hotels that are bidding for a lot of the business as well,” Salsberry said.
For now La Quinta is focused on continuing to abide by COVID-19 safe practices, including rigorous sanitization process for the public areas and rooms, and requiring guests to wear face masks and social distance.
Eddy County Manager Allen Davis said safe practices like those practiced by employees at the La Quinta Inns and Suites along with testing and vaccinations moved Eddy County to the next level.
“This long-awaited change is the first step to helping our local businesses get back on their feet, it helps our residents begin to regain access to some of the activities that have been unavailable for such an extended period,” he said.
“To sustain this effort, each of us will have to continue to do our part and be aware of and informed about how we conduct ourselves at work, in our social settings and at home.”
Davis encouraged Eddy County residents to get the COVID-19 vaccination.
“Together we can continue our progress and momentum to move our county to the green stage and the reduced limitations provided in that stage. We’ll need to stay the course and be diligent about following safe practices, testing and vaccinations,” he said.
Melissa Suggs, Carlsbad Medical Center (CMC) spokesperson, agreed with Davis on the importance of vaccinations for Carlsbad and Eddy County residents.
“Vaccination is also an important step in helping to prevent this illness. We encourage those who currently qualify to receive the vaccine to register online at cvvaccine.nmhealth.org,” she said.
“Carlsbad Medical Center is encouraged by the continued decrease in our area’s COVID-19 positivity rate, and the news that Eddy County is now in the yellow category. However, we all still need to do our part to avoid another surge,” Suggs added.
Mike Smith can be reached at 575-628-5546 or by email at MSmith@currentargus.com or @ArgusMichae on Twitter.