News

“The Pandemic Isn’t Over...And Now It’s Getting Worse.”

Health officials discuss rising cases and new mask advice as NM reports 329 new COVID-19 cases

New Mexico health officials briefly donned masks at the outset of today’s COVID-19 briefing, an acknowledgement of yesterday’s updated mask guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, along with the rising cases in the state.

Officials today reported 329 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the statewide total so far to 209,684. The health department has designated 196,723 of those cases as recovered. Today’s cases, according to SFR’s admittedly sloppy record keeping, represent the first time the state has had single-day case reporting in the 300s since the end of April, and the highest single day reporting since Feb. 18 (DOH, however, reports three-day case counts on Mondays).

Bernalillo County had 113 new cases, followed by Eddy County with 34 and Doña Ana County with 22. Santa Fe County had 20 new cases.

The state also announced five additional deaths—four recent, including a female in her 10s from Sandoval County who was hospitalized and had underlying conditions. One death was from more than 30 days ago; the health department says COVID-related deaths are reported when a death certificate has been issued and some death certificates are delayed due to insufficient information. There have now been 4,407 total fatalities.

As of today, 133 people are hospitalized with COVID-19.* A more detailed accounting of today’s cases appears at the end of this story.

Yesterday, the CDC issued updated guidance for fully vaccinated people, recommending that fully vaccinated people to wear a mask in public indoor settings in areas of substantial or high transmission.

In New Mexico, according to the CDC, nearly half of its counties are in areas with either substantial or high rates of transmission, with four counties—Hidalgo, Otero, Lincoln and Eddy—in the latter category. Santa Fe County is one of 12 counties with mild—yellow on the CDC’s map—transmission.

Human Services Secretary and Acting Health Secretary Dr. David Scrase said the state’s current public health order ties its guidance to the CDC recommendation, but he would recommend masking regardless of which county in which one resides. “I think out of an abundance of caution, everyone in New Mexico should follow those guidelines,” he said.

The rising cases, here and nationwide, have been attributed to the increased transmissibility of the Delta variant, which Scrase says now accounts for 75 to 80% of New Mexico’s cases, in line with the rest of the US. The variant spreads, he noted, three to five times as effectively as prior iterations, with households contracting the virus from the Delta variant at 52% versus 16% for prior variants. This has been the case in New Mexico, Scrase said, where “whole families…almost everyone or anyone who was at a party getting infected, getting the virus.”

Unvaccinated individuals remain the most at risk, DOH Deputy Secretary Dr. Laura Chanchien Parajón said, particularly Hispanics/Latinos and Black populations. While New Mexico is leading in the US for those demographic groups, neither has reached the 50% threshold for full vaccination (47.4% for Hispanics/Latinos and 43.5% for Blacks/African Americans).

Overall, currently, 72.6% of New Mexicans 18 years and older have had at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and 64.5% are fully vaccinated. Among those 12-17-years old, 47.4% have had one dose and 37.7% are fully vaccinated. In Santa Fe County among adults 18 years and older, 82.9% have had at least one dose and 74.2% are fully inoculated.

Lower vaccination rates amongst Hispanics/Latinos and Blacks/African Americans in New Mexico also holds as a pattern for people ages 12-17 in those demographic groups, Parajón said.

“It’s worrisome for us because we want to everyone to have the opportunity to get vaccinated,” she said. “Equity is really important and we’re doing everything we can to get out to all populations.”

Moreover, she noted, COVID-19 has been found to reduce life expectancy at higher rates for people in those demographic groups, as shown in the slide below.

In addition to rising cases fueled by the Delta variant, Scrase said the state also is seeing increased test-positivity rates, one of the gating criteria the state has used to measure adequate testing. Increased rates indicate not enough people are getting tested and there may be more cases than have been accounted. He reiterated the importance for testing, regardless of vaccination status: “The recommendation has always been anyone with symptoms to get tested…it’s the only way we can contain this virus.” And even without symptoms, he recommended, get tested if you have “close contact with someone who tested positive. If someone in our household turned out to be COVID-positive, I would immediately go and get tested.”

As for breakthrough cases—people contracting COVID-19 despite being fully vaccinated—Scrase said, in response to a question from SFR—that the CDC has not outlined “a clear cut methodology for states to study vaccine breakthrough cases.” The CDC, since May 1, has focused on identifying breakthrough cases that resulted in hospitalizations or deaths. Scrase said there is a “growing body of suspicion” that some of those so-called breakthrough cases involved people with viral loads prior to full immunization. “We’re looking at studying those numbers,” he said. “We’re digging deeper right now to understand it more.”

Parajón added the point that some breakthrough cases were expected, because the vaccines’ main purpose is to “prevent hospitalization and death and the vaccine is doing [that] really well.”

But for those who are fully vaccinated and concerned about contracting COVID-19, Scrase said, “we’ve just gone over a host of things you can do, including putting a mask back on.”

In other words: “The pandemic is not over,” he said, as he does every week, adding: “It isn’t over, and now it’s getting worse.”

New cases

  • 113 new cases in Bernalillo County
  • 17 new cases in Chaves County
  • 2 new cases in Cibola County
  • 5 new cases in Colfax County
  • 5 new cases in Curry County
  • 22 new cases in Doña Ana County
  • 34 new cases in Eddy County
  • 3 new cases in Grant County
  • 18 new cases in Lea County
  • 9 new cases in Lincoln County
  • 3 new cases in Los Alamos County
  • 3 new cases in Luna County
  • 10 new cases in McKinley County
  • 6 new cases in Otero County
  • 1 new case in Quay County
  • 6 new cases in Rio Arriba County
  • 4 new cases in Roosevelt County
  • 19 new cases in Sandoval County
  • 16 new cases in San Juan County
  • 3 new cases in San Miguel County
  • 20 new cases in Santa Fe County
  • 1 new case in Sierra County
  • 1 new case in Taos County
  • 2 new cases in Torrance County
  • 5 new cases in Valencia County
  • 1 new case among individuals held by federal agencies at the Otero County Processing Center

New fatalities

  • A female in her 70s from Bernalillo County who was hospitalized and had underlying conditions
  • A female in her 80s from Lea County who was hospitalized
  • A male in his 80s from Lea County who was hospitalized and had underlying conditions
  • A female in her 10s from Sandoval County who was hospitalized and had underlying conditions

Newly reported fatalities more than 30 days old

  • A male in his 50s from Lea County who was hospitalized and 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:

  • Albuquerque Heights Healthcare and Rehabilitation Center
  • Bloomfield Nursing and Rehabilitation in Bloomfield
  • Desert Springs Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Hobbs
  • Fort Bayard Medical Center in Santa Clara
  • Genesis Healthcare Uptown in Albuquerque
  • GoodLife Senior Living and Memory Care in Artesia
  • Good Life Senior Living in Portales
  • Good Samaritan Society – Betty Dare in Alamogordo
  • Laguna Rainbow Care Center in Casa Blanca
  • Lakeview Christian Home in Carlsbad
  • Las Palomas Center in Albuquerque
  • The Neighborhood in Rio Rancho Assisted Living in Rio Rancho
  • Sierra Health Care Center in Truth or Consequences
  • Skies Healthcare and Rehabilitation Center in Albuquerque
  • The Rehabilitation Center of Albuquerque

Statewide cases

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

  • Bernalillo County: 60,431
  • Catron County: 98
  • Chaves County: 9,182
  • Cibola County: 2,934
  • Colfax County: 818
  • Curry County: 5,443
  • De Baca County: 178
  • Doña Ana County: 25,400
  • Eddy County: 7,245
  • Grant County: 1,777
  • Guadalupe County: 478
  • Harding County: 13
  • Hidalgo County: 408
  • Lea County: 8,590
  • Lincoln County: 1,818
  • Los Alamos County: 551
  • Luna County: 3,435
  • McKinley County: 12,514
  • Mora County: 179
  • Otero County: 4,177
  • Quay County: 550
  • Rio Arriba County: 3,893
  • Roosevelt County: 2,072
  • Sandoval County: 12,537
  • San Juan County: 15,948
  • San Miguel County: 1,468
  • Santa Fe County: 10,853
  • Sierra County: 787
  • Socorro County: 1,343
  • Taos County: 1,802
  • Torrance County: 902
  • Union County: 261
  • Valencia County: 7,072

Cases among people being held by federal agencies

  • Cibola County Correctional Center: 451
  • Otero County Federal Prison Facility: 452
  • Otero County Processing Center: 395
  • Torrance County Detention Facility: 237

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.

Letters to the Editor

Mail letters to PO Box 4910 Santa Fe, NM 87502 or email them to editor[at]sfreporter.com. Letters (no more than 200 words) should refer to specific articles in the Reporter. Letters will be edited for space and clarity.

We also welcome you to follow SFR on social media (on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter) and comment there. You can also email specific staff members from our contact page.