Health Officials Expect Omicron Variant, Urge Vaccinations

New data shows unvaccinated median death age 14 years younger than vaccinated people

Speaking shortly after the first case of the Omicron variant was detected in California, New Mexico health officials confirmed during today’s weekly COVID-19 news conference none have been detected here.


“We can’t keep Omicron from coming to our state,” Acting Health Secretary Dr. David Scrase said. “Everyone fully anticipates we’ll see it soon.”

For now, however, the Delta variant remains the dominant strain in the state, and the advice to avoid contracting Delta, Omicron or any other potential variant remains the same: Get fully vaccinated.

State Epidemiologist Dr. Christine Ross reiterated that none of the major questions regarding Omicron can be answered as of yet, which include whether it is more transmissible, causes more disease or is more resistant to vaccines. However, she said DOH works with several partners in the state, such as Los Alamos National Laboratory and the University of New Mexico, and is working with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on genomic sequencing to identify cases of the Omicron variant if and when they emerge here.

“This is evolving really quickly,” she said, noting that additional changes to the country’s travel advisories will be forthcoming.

Silde "Omicron—best means of protection remains vaccination." NMDOH, 12.1.21

For now, in addition to vaccination, health officials here and nationally continue to emphasize masking, social distancing and hand-washing as tried and true tools against contracting COVID-19.

However, the state will not be changing the definition of fully vaccinated to include booster shots, despite intimations this might happen; doing so would put the state out of sync with federal guidelines, Scrase said. However, Scrase said those employees currently required to be vaccinated or tested under the public health law—health care workers, school employees and state employees—will soon be required to also receive booster shots.

Currently, 23.3% of New Mexicans 18 and older have received a booster shot. Scrase said while the health department has ample appointments available for booster shots, people should also seek them at pharmacies and from their primary care physicians, and acknowledged the state is looking for available venues in Albuquerque, Española, Santa Fe and Las Cruces to conduct larger vaccination events.

Silde "More booster appointments are being added daily." NMDOH, 12.1.21

Among the 18 and older demographic, 84.2% of New Mexicans have had at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and 73.7% are fully vaccinated. In the 12-17-year-old age group, 64.7% of people have had at least one dose and 55.6% are fully inoculated. Among children ages 5-11, 17% have had at least one dose of the Pfizer vaccine and 0.7% are fully vaccinated. In Santa Fe County, 97.1% of people 18 and older have had at least one dose and 84.3% are fully vaccinated.

New Mexico health officials today reported 1,887 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the total number of cases to 316,089; DOH designated 267,604 of those cases as recovered. Bernalillo County had 583 new cases, followed by Doña Ana County with 319 and San Juan County with 163. Santa Fe County had 60.

The state continues to track new cases among the vaccinated versus unvaccinated—those in the latter category accounted for 71% of new cases, close to 80% of hospitalizations and more than 80% of deaths last month. In addition, people who are six months past completing their primary vaccination series have a four-fold risk of a vaccine breakthrough case.

Silde "Percent of Cases, Hospitalizations, and Deaths by Vaccine Status." NMDOH, 12.1.21

Statewide, the 14-day test positivity rate rose to 13.6%, well above the 7.5% target, and the entire state is now “red” indicating high rates of community transmission.

Silde "All of NM is a high-risk setting." NMDOH, 12.1.21

There are, however, some small signs about which to be optimistic, Ross said: the state’s effective rate of transmission has dropped below 1%.

“This does give us some reason to have some cautious optimism,” she said, “but case rates remain…elevated…and we will have to follow this really closely, especially post-Thanksgiving holiday.”

The state also announced 12 recent deaths; there have been 5,379 total fatalities statewide. While death rates appear to have plateaued, Scrase introduced a new data point showing that the median age for people hospitalized or dying from COVID-19 is 14 years younger (note correction from the slide below) for people who are unvaccinated versus vaccinated.

“Getting vaccinated now can potentially buy every unvaccinated New Mexican 14 additional years of life,” Scrase said.

In other better news, New Mexico Aging and Long-Term Services Department Secretary Katrina Hotrum-Lopez reported a decline in deaths at the state’s long-term care facilities following the vaccination rollout.

Cases, as of this week, also have been declining among both residents and staff. “Things are looking better,” she said. “We have been working diligently on rolling out booster vaccinations and so that process is already started and we hope to continue to see a decline.”

Silde "Death rates in long term care facilities." NMDOH, 12.1.21

As of yesterday, 643 people were hospitalized with COVID-19, 10 more than the day prior.*

The state’s hospitals remain over capacity, as detailed in an update yesterday from Presbyterian Healthcare and University of New Mexico Health. However, projections indicate hospitalizations may be on a decline.

Silde "Projection for NM hospitalizations appear to be on a decline." NMDOH, 12.1.21

And, while more news is expected in the coming weeks regarding the Omicron variant, for now, the message about the pandemic remains the same:

“We don’t have enough information yet on Omicron to declare a new phase in the pandemic or a change in strategy,” Ross said. “Scientists and various experts all in agreement that we really need to focus on the tried and true, in other words, the same prevention methods hold true right now and vaccination remains our best tool to protect an individual, to protect a community, to protect New Mexico.”

Silde "The pandemic is not over; get vaccinated, get boosted!" NMDOH, 12.1.21

New cases

  • 583 new cases in Bernalillo County
  • 3 new cases in Catron County
  • 68 new cases in Chaves County
  • 9 new cases in Cibola County
  • 8 new cases in Colfax County
  • 32 new cases in Curry County
  • 3 new cases in De Baca County
  • 319 new cases in Doña Ana County
  • 37 new cases in Eddy County
  • 24 new cases in Grant County
  • 4 new cases in Guadalupe County
  • 4 new cases in Hidalgo County
  • 25 new cases in Lea County
  • 37 new cases in Lincoln County
  • 5 new cases in Los Alamos County
  • 12 new cases in Luna County
  • 68 new cases in McKinley County
  • 4 new cases in Mora County
  • 28 new cases in Otero County
  • 22 new cases in Quay County
  • 48 new cases in Rio Arriba County
  • 28 new cases in Roosevelt County
  • 116 new cases in Sandoval County
  • 163 new cases in San Juan County
  • 19 new cases in San Miguel County
  • 60 new cases in Santa Fe County
  • 10 new cases in Sierra County
  • 41 new cases in Socorro County
  • 12 new cases in Taos County
  • 7 new cases in Torrance County
  • 1 new case in Union County
  • 87 new cases in Valencia County

New fatalities

  • A male in his 50s from Bernalillo County who was hospitalized and had underlying conditions
  • A male in his 60s from Bernalillo County who was hospitalized and had underlying conditions
  • A female in her 90s from Bernalillo County
  • A female in her 50s from Cibola County who was hospitalized
  • A female in her 70s from Curry County who was hospitalized and had underlying conditions
  • A male in his 80s from Grant County who had underlying conditions
  • A male in his 20s from McKinley County who was hospitalized
  • A female in her 40s from San Juan County who had underlying conditions
  • A second female in her 40s from San Juan County who was hospitalized and had underlying conditions
  • A male in his 80s from San Juan County who was hospitalized and had underlying conditions
  • A female in her 70s from San Miguel County
  • A male in his 40s from Valencia 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:

  • Advantage Assisted Living in Rio Rancho
  • Albuquerque Heights Healthcare and Rehabilitation Center
  • Artesia Healthcare and Rehabilitation in Artesia
  • Autumn Blessings Assisted Living in Logan
  • Avamere at Fiesta Park in Albuquerque
  • Avamere in Rio Rancho
  • Aztec Healthcare in Aztec
  • Bear Canyon Rehab in Albuquerque
  • BeeHive Homes Alamogordo
  • BeeHive Homes in Clovis
  • BeeHive Homes in Roswell
  • 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
  • Casa Arena Blanca Nursing Center in Alamogordo
  • Casa de Carino 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
  • 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 McKinley Care Center in Gallup
  • Genesis San Juan Center in Farmington
  • Genesis Silver City Care Center in Silver City
  • Good Life Senior Living in Ruidoso
  • Good Samaritan Society – Betty Dare in Alamogordo
  • Good Samaritan Society Las Cruces
  • Good Samaritan Society – Manzano del Sol Village in Albuquerque
  • Haciendas at Grace Village in Las Cruces
  • Lakeview Christian Home in Carlsbad
  • Las Cruces Post Acute and Rehabilitation Center of Cascadia (Welbrook Senior Living) in Las Cruces
  • Las Palomas Center in Albuquerque
  • The Legacy in Santa Fe
  • Life Care Farmington
  • Little Sisters of the Poor in Gallup
  • Lovington Healthcare in Lovington
  • The Meadows Home at the New Mexico Behavioral Health Institute in Las Vegas
  • Mimbres Memorial Nursing Home in Deming
  • Miners Colfax Medical Center in Raton
  • The Montebello on Academy in Albuquerque
  • The Neighborhood Health Care in Rio Rancho
  • New Mexico State Veterans Home in Truth or Consequences
  • Odelia Healthcare (Camino Healthcare) in Albuquerque
  • Palmilla Senior Living in Albuquerque
  • Princeton Place in Albuquerque
  • Ramah Adult Care in Ramah
  • The Rehabilitation Center of Albuquerque
  • The Retreat Healthcare in Rio Rancho
  • 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
  • South Valley Care Center in Albuquerque
  • Spanish Trails Rehabilitation Suites in Albuquerque
  • The Suites at Rio Vista in Rio Rancho
  • 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
  • The Watermark at Cherry Hills in Albuquerque
  • Westwind House Assisted Living in Albuquerque
  • White Sands Healthcare in Hobbs

Statewide cases

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

  • Bernalillo County: 87,624
  • Catron County: 262
  • Chaves County: 13,890
  • Cibola County: 4,128
  • Colfax County: 1,623
  • Curry County: 7,960
  • De Baca County: 330
  • Doña Ana County: 36,605
  • Eddy County: 11,736
  • Grant County: 3,761
  • Guadalupe County: 665
  • Harding County: 50
  • Hidalgo County: 637
  • Lea County: 14,067
  • Lincoln County: 3,456
  • Los Alamos County: 917
  • Luna County: 4,547
  • McKinley County: 16,791
  • Mora County: 406
  • Otero County: 8,306
  • Quay County: 1,333
  • Rio Arriba County: 5,757
  • Roosevelt County: 3,044
  • Sandoval County: 18,896
  • San Juan County: 26,753
  • San Miguel County: 3,047
  • Santa Fe County: 14,984
  • Sierra County: 1,321
  • Socorro County: 2,159
  • Taos County: 2,870
  • Torrance County: 1,684
  • Union County: 429
  • Valencia County: 10,843

Cases among people being held by federal agencies

  • Cibola County Correctional Center: 455
  • Otero County Federal Prison Facility: 548
  • Otero County Processing Center: 613
  • 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: 347
  • Guadalupe County Correctional Facility: 258
  • Lea County Correctional Facility: 765
  • Northeast New Mexico Correctional Facility in Union County: 213
  • Northwest New Mexico Correctional Center in Cibola County: 131
  • Otero County Prison Facility: 502
  • Penitentiary of New Mexico in Santa Fe County: 231
  • Roswell Correctional Center: 230
  • Southern New Mexico Correctional Facility in Doña Ana County: 238
  • Springer Correctional Center in Colfax County: 243
  • 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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