Health Secretary Collins Says Farewell as State Keeps an Eye on Rising Delta Variant

New Mexico reports 180 new COVID-19 cases and three more deaths

Nearly all of New Mexico’s COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths are among those who have not yet been vaccinated, state health officials said today.

According to state Human Services Secretary Dr. David Scrase, more than 96% of cases, nearly 95% of hospitalizations and approximately 98% of deaths, to be exact. “For me, these numbers, I find compelling in terms of the advantage of vaccination,” Scrase said.

Moreover, he noted, cases decrease in counties as vaccination rates increase.

The threat to the unvaccinated is all the more pressing given the growth of the Delta variant, known to be highly transmissible and swiftly becoming the main strain behind cases in states with low vaccination rates, and accounting for close to 58% of cases across the US.

In New Mexico, the B.1.1.7 variant—now known as Alpha, remains the dominant variant, but Delta has been growing, albeit not as quickly as expected. “We originally thought we’d see the Delta variant quite high in the last two weeks of July,” Scrase said, “and now we think it will be sometimes more in August that we’ll see that significant uptick.”

According to the health department’s most recently weekly report on so-called “variants of concern,” scientists have sequenced 58 cases with the Delta variant in the state and matched 52 of them to known cases. However, the state only sequences a sampling, so the likely number of cases, according to Scrase, is in the vicinity of 700 to 750. The report shows one case with the Delta variant has been detected in Santa Fe County.

In other words, as Scrase has said many times, “the pandemic isn’t over” and the virus is changing. Because so many people in New Mexico have been vaccinated, he said, “there are less places for that new variant to jump to.”

Nonetheless, he added, “the virus is smart...We’re concerned. I think everyone should be concerned. If you’re unvaccinated and concerned about the Delta variant, please get vaccinated. If you’re a vaccinated person and you’re concerned about the Delta variant, you have lots of options to take more precautions and be more careful.”

The state’s approach to the pandemic, however, will be changing, as health officials begin moving toward a “pandemic maintenance” plan likely to include a reduced daily COVID-19 reporting. And, significantly, today also marked Health Secretary Dr. Tracie Collins’ last news conference before she returns to her prior position as dean of the College of Population Health at the University of New Mexico. She joined the state in as secretary last December. Scrase will be leading the department, along with HSD, as he has previously when DOH lacked a cabinet secretary. “We’re going to be very sad to see her go,” Scrase said, pointing to Collins’ successful tenure overseeing vaccination in the state, and her emphasis on equity in those vaccination efforts.

Collins described her time with the state as “an honor” and “a challenge,” but said it was time for her to return to her academic job, which she moved here to take in 2019. When Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham asked her to step come on as health secretary, she said, “I really saw it as an opportunity to step in and show how population health works” and to be “a part of history,” but said her conversations with the governor were frank about returning to UNM once the vaccination efforts had rolled out.

New Mexico has remained one of the leading states for vaccinations, which Scrase pointed out is helping mitigate the types of case surges occurring in other states, as shown in the slide below.

Currently, 71.8% of New Mexicans 18 years and older have had at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and 63.7% in that age group are vaccinated. Among those 12 to 17-years old, 43.7% have had at least one dose and 35% are fully vaccinated. In Santa Fe County, 82% are partially vaccinated and 73.3% are fully vaccinated.

As part of the state’s efforts to vaccinate children between the ages of 12 and 17 prior to school starting, the health and education departments today also announced a back-to-school initiative in which participating pharmacies will provide vaccines without appointments between July 15-Aug. 15.

The state this week also launched a new initiative geared at encouraging residents to catch up on their healthcare, As part of that effort, the state also is asking for people to nominate health care providers for recognition as public health care heroes during the pandemic.

New Mexico health officials today reported 180 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the statewide total so far to 206,846. The health department has designated 195,789 of those cases as recovered.

Bernalillo County had 62 new cases, followed by Doña Ana County with 18 and Sandoval County with 16. Santa Fe County had 10 new cases.

The state also announced three additional deaths, two of which were recent—the state only reports COVID-19 related deaths once death certificates have been issued and some have been delayed due to incomplete information. As of today, 97 people are hospitalized with COVID-19.

New cases

  • 62 new cases in Bernalillo County
  • 7 new cases in Chaves County
  • 1 new case in Cibola County
  • 5 new cases in Curry County
  • 18 new cases in Doña Ana County
  • 5 new cases in Eddy County
  • 2 new cases in Grant County
  • 4 new cases in Hidalgo County
  • 6 new cases in Lea County
  • 2 new cases in Lincoln County
  • 1 new case in Los Alamos County
  • 4 new cases in Luna County
  • 7 new cases in McKinley County
  • 1 new case in Mora County
  • 2 new cases in Otero County
  • 1 new case in Quay County
  • 4 new cases in Rio Arriba County
  • 2 new cases in Roosevelt County
  • 16 new cases in Sandoval County
  • 6 new cases in San Juan County
  • 3 new cases in San Miguel County
  • 10 new cases in Santa Fe County
  • 1 new case in Socorro County
  • 4 new cases in Taos County
  • 6 new cases in Valencia County

New fatalities

  • A male in his 60s from Sandoval County who was hospitalized
  • A male in his 40s from San Juan County who was hospitalized and had underlying conditions.

Newly reported fatality > 30 days

  • A male in his 50s from Doña Ana County who had underlying conditions

Congregate facilities

The Department of Health has identified at least one positive COVID-19 case in residents and/or staff in the past 28 days at the following facilities:

  • Aztec Healthcare in Aztec
  • Fort Bayard Medical Center in Santa Clara
  • Genesis Healthcare Uptown in Albuquerque
  • Good Samaritan Society – Betty Dare in Alamogordo
  • Laguna Rainbow Care Center in Casa Blanca
  • Lakeview Christian Home in Carlsbad
  • Las Palomas Center in Albuquerque

Statewide cases

County totals are subject to change upon further investigation and determination of residency of individuals positive for COVID-19.

  • Bernalillo County: 59,522
  • Catron County: 97
  • Chaves County: 9,097
  • Cibola County: 2,919
  • Colfax County: 800
  • Curry County: 5,365
  • De Baca County: 178
  • Doña Ana County: 25,243
  • Eddy County: 6,987
  • Grant County: 1,764
  • Guadalupe County: 474
  • Harding County: 13
  • Hidalgo County: 379
  • Lea County: 8,460
  • Lincoln County: 1,773
  • Los Alamos County: 546
  • Luna County: 3,414
  • McKinley County: 12,444
  • Mora County: 176
  • Otero County: 4,096
  • Quay County: 540
  • Rio Arriba County: 3,841
  • Roosevelt County: 2,044
  • Sandoval County: 12,365
  • San Juan County: 15,801
  • San Miguel County: 1,424
  • Santa Fe County: 10,715
  • Sierra County: 782
  • Socorro County: 1,334
  • Taos County: 1,774
  • Torrance County: 892
  • Union County: 261
  • Valencia County: 6,970

Cases among people being held by federal agencies

  • Cibola County Correctional Center: 451
  • Otero County Federal Prison Facility: 448
  • Otero County Processing Center: 263
  • Torrance County Detention Facility: 202

Cases among people being held by the New Mexico Department of Corrections

  • Central New Mexico Correctional Facility in Valencia County: 302
  • Guadalupe County Correctional Facility: 255
  • Lea County Correctional Facility: 762
  • Northeast New Mexico Correctional Facility in Union County: 167
  • Northwest New Mexico Correctional Center in Cibola County: 128
  • Otero County Prison Facility: 473
  • Penitentiary of New Mexico in Santa Fe County: 219
  • Roswell Correctional Center: 229
  • Southern New Mexico Correctional Facility in Doña Ana County: 231
  • Springer Correctional Center in Colfax County: 151
  • Western New Mexico Correctional Facility in Cibola County: 75

*Per the health department, hospitalization figures include people who were tested elsewhere but are hospitalized in New Mexico, but don’t include people who were tested here but are hospitalized out of state.

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