Organizers are planning an in-person Balloon Fiesta

A balloon lifts off between inflating balloons at the start of the 2018 Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta. Saturday, October 6, 2018. (Jim Thompson/Albuquerque Journal)

Organizers are planning this year’s Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, and spectators will likely be allowed in as ticket sales for the annual fall event are set to begin in July.

Massive morning fiesta climbs, fireworks displays and special-shaped hot air balloon launches attract hundreds of thousands of spectators from around the world and hundreds of balloon pilots and their crews. Last year’s event did not take place due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Fiesta spokesman Tom Garrity said Tuesday that the board is committed to following the state’s public health mandates and will have updates on the state of the event each month. The council also plans to identify health measures for pilots and guests when tickets go on sale.

“Of course, metrics may be updated based on the current environment and will be evaluated as October approaches,” Garrity said.

New Mexico has enforced some of the most restrictive rules in the country to curb the spread of COVID-19. Despite the criticism, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and state health officials have argued the rules are necessary because of the lack of access to health care in the state and the high number of people suffering from existing health conditions that put them at increased risk.

Some of the restrictions have been eased in recent weeks as more counties meet state benchmarks. But the mask mandate remains in place statewide.

Under New Mexico’s color-coding system, a color is assigned based on the level of risk in a particular county. The risk is determined by two key measures: a test positivity rate of less than 5% and a rate of new cases per capita of less than eight per 100,000.

A county that meets one of the benchmarks over a two-week period can operate at the yellow level. A county that meets both criteria is considered green, while those that do not meet both are considered red. Those classified as turquoise were able to remain stable at the lower rates for a longer period.

The most recent map released by the state health department showed all but 10 of New Mexico’s 33 counties running green or turquoise.

State officials have pointed to increased vaccination rates for the decline in the spread. So far, more than 27% of New Mexicans are fully immunized and this is expected to increase as New Mexico continues its immunization campaign.

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