COVID-19 in New Mexico: “Things Continue to Get Worse”

State reports 1,337 new cases, 13 more deaths and ongoing rise in hospitalizations

Given New Mexico’s high rates of COVID-19 vaccination—73% of people 18 and older are fully vaccinated and 83.2% have had at least one dose—why are cases rising?

That was the main topic in today’s weekly COVID-19 update from state health officials, with the answer rooted in a trifecta of causes: waning immunity, the highly transmissible Delta variant and declining adherence to COVID-safe precautions, both individually and at the community level.

Slide: "Question of the week: Why are we seeing so many cases when NM's vaccination rate is so high?" NMDOH. 11.10.21

“Things continue to get worse,” Acting Health Secretary Dr. David Scrase said, describing the general picture of COVID-19 in New Mexico at present time as “grim.”

New Mexico health officials today reported 1,337 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the statewide total so far to 288,557. DOH has designated 250,960 of those cases as recovered. Bernalillo County had 385 new cases, followed by Doña Ana County with 212 and San Juan County with 188. Santa Fe County had 32 new cases.

At the county level, nearly all counties have high—or red—levels of transmission, with the exception of Harding County, the only county that has a daily case rate level close to the target of 10 per 100,000 coupled with a test positivity rate below 7.5%, although Los Alamos and Union counties are meeting the second criteria, according to the most recent epidemiology report on community transmission for Oct. 26 through Nov. 8.

Santa Fe County currently has a daily case rate of 28.9 per 100,000 for that time period and a test positivity rate of 6.83%, an increase from the period prior in which its case and test positivity rates were 18.4 and 4.01%, respectively.

Slide: " Most of NM still has high COVID-19 community transmission levels." NMDOH. 11.10.21

“Living with this virus means being aware of the level of disease activity around you,” state Epidemiologist Dr. Christine Ross said, “because you can then modulate your behavior in ways to protect yourself. So I think it’s just really important to understand we have really very concerning levels of case rates and rising incidents around us.” Statewide, the test positivity rate has risen to 11.8%, indicating not all cases are being caught.

Slide "New Mexico test positivity 7-day rolling average, March 17, 2020 to November 8, 2021." NMDOH. 11.10.21

That being said, New Mexicans should not expect to see additional restrictions, short of the indoor-mask mandate being renewed in the public health order at the end of the week.

“I think one of the most important criteria for a public health intervention it has to be something we can really live with going forward,” Scrase said. “It’s not a roller coaster that’s going up and down.”

Health officials continue to emphasize vaccinations as the key measure people can take. While the number of breakthrough cases has risen over time—as a result of there being more vaccinated people, the Delta variant and waning immunity, the majority of cases, hospitalizations and deaths are among those who are not fully vaccinated. The chart below shows that over the last month, 71.6% of cases, 76.9% of hospitalizations and 95.1% of deaths were among the unvaccinated.

Slide "Percent of cases, hospitalizations and deaths by vaccine status: Oct. 11-Nov. 8, 2021." NMDOH. 11.10.21

Officials also urged all those who are eligible to seek out a booster shot, with Scrase noting that DOH is consulting with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to open up booster eligibility to all. Currently, anyone who is over 65 years old, has an underlying condition or is at risk due to their occupation or living situation is eligible for a booster, which health officials estimate constitutes approximately 70% of adults over 18.

“If I had my say, I would want everyone in New Mexico to get a booster right away as long as they’re 18″ and meet the timeline criteria for each vaccine, Scrase said.

The state’s data calculates that immunity is waning at roughly five and half months. Currently, boosters are available for Pfizer and Moderna recipients six months after second doses and at two months for J&J recipients. Overall, however, breakthrough cases represent only about 1.5% to 2.5% of vaccinated people.

Slide "New Mexico vaccinated faster than most states, so we're seeing breakthrough cases earlier than others." 11.10.21

In addition to urging first vaccinations for adults and boosters, the state also is focusing on vaccinations for the most recent eligible group: 5-11-year-olds, 0.7% of whom have had their first dose, which DOH Deputy Secretary Dr. Laura Parajón says puts that demographic on pace with the vaccination rate for 12-17-year-olds, 63.4% of whom have had at least one dose and 55% of whom are fully inoculated.

Parajón said providers continue to add appointments for 5-11-year-olds and the state continues to receive doses of the Pfizer vaccine for children, which is a third of the adult dosage and causes more mild symptoms, she noted.

Slide "Providers are adding more appointments for 5-11-year-olds daily." 11.10.21

While officials hope increased vaccinations, boosters and an increased focus on COVID-safety, the current surge continues to leave hospitals overwhelmed. As of today, 490 people are hospitalized with COVID-19, 20 people more than yesterday.* In addition to COVID-19 cases, understaffed hospitals also are filled with non-COVID patients.

Scrase noted that because the state enacted crisis standards of care, hospitals will be able to be reimbursed for additional personnel—281 healthcare workers—who have either arrived or are arriving to help across the state. Nonetheless, he said, “if one of the people watching this press conference has a heart attack right now, there’s a good chance we don’t have an intensive care unit bed for that person here in New Mexico.” In other words: “Any rise in the number of cases, no matter what the reason, puts more pressure on our hospitals,” he said.

Slide "New Mexico hospital capacity is still stretched thin." NMDOH. 11.10.21

Moreover, modeling from Presbyterian Health indicates no immediate relief in sight, with hospitalizations forecast to continue rising.

Slide "Hospitalization rates projected to increase." NMDOH. 11.10.21

At Christus St. Vincent Regional Medical Center in Santa Fe, Marketing, Communications and Public Relations Director Arturo Delgado tells SFR via email the hospital “is currently exceeding capacity of non-COVID patients, and this includes ICU patients. We are, however, seeing our COVID numbers fluctuate daily, and have more patients that are ICU-level. As of this morning, our team was caring for 12 COVID patients and 81% are unvaccinated.”

Overall, Delgado says: “Our staff continues to face the challenges of overall increased patient volume with insufficient nurses, nursing assistants, and additional care providers, but we are proud of our team because they are always willing to lean in and help, even when they are feeling the load of responsibility.”

In what passes for good news, the state is seeing a plateau in deaths; today, DOH reported 13 additional deaths, 12 of them recent; there have now been 5,148 fatalities.

Slide "A plateau in COVID-19 deaths appears to be continuing." NMDOH. 11.10.21

And, Scrase noted, hospitals are “ramping up” use of monoclonal antibody treatments for eligible patients who test positive for COVID-19, used to prevent hospitalization and severe outcomes from the disease.

Finally, while the state is unlikely to apply more stringent restrictions, Scrase, Ross and Parajón each urged individuals to re-up their vigilance in the face of the current situation.

“Be careful and just ask yourself again, this question: Am I being two to four times as careful this year given that the virus is two to four times infectious as I was last year at this time when we were in a very similar situation,” Scrase said. “I think most of us would be hard-pressed to answer that question with a resounding yes.”

Slide "Multiple layers to help prevent the spread of COVID-19—NM needs your help." 11.10.21

New cases

  • 385 new cases in Bernalillo County
  • 6 new cases in Catron County
  • 31 new cases in Chaves County
  • 24 new cases in Cibola County
  • 10 new cases in Colfax County
  • 7 new cases in Curry County
  • 4 new cases in De Baca County
  • 212 new cases in Doña Ana County
  • 16 new cases in Eddy County
  • 70 new cases in Grant County
  • 1 new case in Guadalupe County
  • 4 new cases in Hidalgo County
  • 25 new cases in Lea County
  • 8 new cases in Lincoln County
  • 5 new cases in Los Alamos County
  • 15 new cases in Luna County
  • 69 new cases in McKinley County
  • 26 new cases in Otero County
  • 11 new cases in Quay County
  • 46 new cases in Rio Arriba County
  • 63 new cases in Sandoval County
  • 188 new cases in San Juan County
  • 8 new cases in San Miguel County
  • 32 new cases in Santa Fe County
  • 4 new cases in Sierra County
  • 11 new cases in Socorro County
  • 6 new cases in Taos County
  • 5 new cases in Torrance County
  • 1 new case in Union County
  • 44 new cases in Valencia County

New fatalities

  • A female in her 80s from Colfax County who was hospitalized and had underlying conditions
  • A female in her 50s from Curry County who was hospitalized and had underlying conditions
  • A male in his 70s from Eddy County who was hospitalized
  • A female in her 70s from Eddy County who was hospitalized
  • A male in his 60s from Grant County who was hospitalized
  • A male in his 50s from Otero County who had underlying conditions
  • A male in his 70s from Otero County who was hospitalized and had underlying conditions
  • A female in her 80s from Otero County who was hospitalized
  • A female in her 90s from Otero County who had underlying conditions
  • A female in her 50s from Sandoval County who was hospitalized
  • A male in his 60s from San Juan County who was hospitalized and had underlying conditions
  • A second male in his 60s from San Juan County who was hospitalized and had underlying conditions

Newly reported fatalities more than 30 days old

  • A male in his 40s from Bernalillo 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:

  • Adobe Assisted Living in Las Cruces
  • Advantage Assisted Living in Rio Rancho
  • Albuquerque Heights Healthcare and Rehabilitation Center
  • Artesia Healthcare and Rehabilitation in Artesia
  • Aspen Ridge Lodge Retirement in Los Alamos
  • Aztec Healthcare in Aztec
  • Bear Canyon Rehab in Albuquerque
  • Beehive Homes of San Pedro in Albuquerque
  • BeeHive Homes in Roswell
  • Belen Meadows in Belen
  • Bellamah House in Albuquerque
  • Bloomfield Nursing and Rehab Center in Bloomfield
  • The Bridge of Farmington in Farmington
  • Calibre Sagecrest Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Las Cruces
  • Camino Retirement Homes in Albuquerque
  • Care Free Assisted Living in Albuquerque
  • Casa Arena Blanca Nursing Center in Alamogordo
  • Casa de la Reina Assisted Living in Albuquerque
  • Casa de Oro in Las Cruces
  • Casa Maria Health Care Center in Roswell
  • Casa Real Genesis in Santa Fe
  • Cedar Ridge Inn in Farmington
  • Crane’s Roost Care Home in Aztec
  • Desert Peaks Assisted Living in Las Cruces
  • Desert Springs Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Hobbs
  • Fairwinds Assisted Living in Rio Rancho
  • Fort Bayard Medical Center in Santa Clara
  • Genesis Silver City Care Center in Silver City
  • Gingerich Home for the Elderly in Farmington
  • Good Samaritan Society – Betty Dare in Alamogordo
  • Good Samaritan Society Las Cruces
  • Good Samaritan Society - Las Cruces Village Las Cruces
  • Good Samaritan Society – Manzano del Sol Village in Albuquerque
  • Good Life Senior Living in Ruidoso
  • Haciendas at Grace Village in Las Cruces
  • Lakeview Christian Home in Carlsbad
  • Las Palomas Center in Albuquerque
  • Las Cruces Post Acute and Rehabilitation Center of Cascadia (Welbrook Senior Living) in Las Cruces
  • The Legacy in Santa Fe
  • Life Care Farmington
  • The Montebello on Academy in Albuquerque
  • The Neighborhood Health Care in Rio Rancho
  • Palmilla Senior Living in Albuquerque
  • Princeton Place in Albuquerque
  • Ramah Adult Care in Ramah
  • The Rehabilitation Center of Albuquerque
  • The Rio Las Estancias in Albuquerque
  • Sandia Ridge Genesis in Albuquerque
  • Sierra Healthcare Center in Truth or Consequences
  • Sierra Hills Assisted Living in Truth or Consequences
  • Skies Healthcare and Rehabilitation Center in Albuquerque
  • Sombrillo Nursing Home in Los Alamos
  • Sunny Day Assisted Living in Gallup
  • Taos Living Center in Taos
  • Taos Retirement Village in Taos
  • Vida Encantada Nursing & Rehabilitation in Las Vegas
  • Village at Northrise - Desert Willow in Las Cruces
  • Village at Northrise - Morning Side in Las Cruces
  • Welbrook Transitional Rehabilitation in Farmington
  • Westwind House Assisted Living in Albuquerque
  • Willow Manor Residential Care Center in Deming

Statewide cases

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

  • Bernalillo County: 79,897
  • Catron County: 244
  • Chaves County: 13,119
  • Cibola County: 3,887
  • Colfax County: 1,467
  • Curry County: 7,555
  • De Baca County: 284
  • Doña Ana County: 32,259
  • Eddy County: 11,204
  • Grant County: 3,154
  • Guadalupe County: 626
  • Harding County: 44
  • Hidalgo County: 613
  • Lea County: 13,792
  • Lincoln County: 3,196
  • Los Alamos County: 836
  • Luna County: 4,204
  • McKinley County: 15,743
  • Mora County: 383
  • Otero County: 7,406
  • Quay County: 1,078
  • Rio Arriba County: 5,293
  • Roosevelt County: 2,835
  • Sandoval County: 16,872
  • San Juan County: 23,802
  • San Miguel County: 2,739
  • Santa Fe County: 13,755
  • Sierra County: 1,135
  • Socorro County: 1,832
  • Taos County: 2,629
  • Torrance County: 1,488
  • Union County: 364
  • Valencia County: 9,783

Cases among people being held by federal agencies

  • Cibola County Correctional Center: 455
  • Otero County Federal Prison Facility: 548
  • Otero County Processing Center: 580
  • Torrance County Detention Facility: 356

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

  • Central New Mexico Correctional Facility in Valencia County: 339
  • Guadalupe County Correctional Facility: 257
  • Lea County Correctional Facility: 765
  • Northeast New Mexico Correctional Facility in Union County: 210
  • Northwest New Mexico Correctional Center in Cibola County: 130
  • Otero County Prison Facility: 473
  • Penitentiary of New Mexico in Santa Fe County: 231
  • Roswell Correctional Center: 229
  • Southern New Mexico Correctional Facility in Doña Ana County: 237
  • Springer Correctional Center in Colfax County: 151
  • Western New Mexico Correctional Facility in Cibola County: 78

*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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