News

Post-Mask Mandate, NM Health Department Starts Outreach for Immunocompromised Residents

NM reports 544 new COVID-19 cases and 30 more deaths, including one from Santa Fe County

The New Mexico Health Department today texted approximately 40,000 immunocompromised New Mexicans in a new initiative geared at those for whom extra measures may be warranted to guard against contracting COVID-19.

The outreach follows Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s Feb. 17 rescinding of the statewide indoor mask mandate in most locations, although they remain required in hospitals and congregate settings.

Acting Health Secretary Dr. David Scrase, who previewed the efforts to SFR last week, discussed them at greater length in today’s weekly COVID-19 update. Specifically, DOH recommends continued masking for those with certain conditions with a K95 or N95 mask; a fourth vaccine; and a pre-exposure prophylaxis called Evusheld.

DOH notified health care providers yesterday about the outreach, and has launched an online “toolkit” that details these measures, which are generally geared at people who:

  • are undergoing active chemotherapy or radiation for tumors or blood cancers
  • had an organ transplant and are taking anti-rejection medication
  • received a stem cell transplant within the last two years
  • have a primary immunodeficiency syndrome such as DiGeorge syndrome or Wiskott-Aldrich syndrome
  • have advanced or untreated HIV/AIDS
  • are taking high dose corticosteroids, e.g., more than 20 mg of prednisone each day or medicines like methotrexate for rheumatoid arthritis (some other immune-suppressing medications also may qualify)

“It’s a big, big concern on my part, on my staff at the Department of Health, what will the impact be on immunocompromised people and other vulnerable people when we no longer have a mask mandate,” Scrase said. “Well of course: If a vulnerable person goes out into an indoor setting in a room full of people without wearing masks, even if they’re wearing one, then of course their chances are going to be higher than if going into a room where everyone was wearing a mask. That’s just obvious.”

Nonetheless, he said, through a three-fold approach of ongoing masking; additional vaccines; and pre-exposure treatment, “I think we can dramatically lower the risk to our most vulnerable people here in New Mexico.”

Scrase also highlighted new data, shown in the slide below, showing the increased risk for developing severe COVID-19 among those older than 65, a demographic to which he also belongs.

“I continue to be careful and I continue to choose to wear a mask,” Scrase said. “I would encourage all older individuals to continue to protect yourself and don’t throw off your mask and go to a rock concert and slosh around in the mosh pit any time soon.”

Nonetheless, he said New Mexico’s current COVID-19 case outlook and hospital situation warranted rescinding the mask mandate. The slide below shows the dramatic drop in both cases and hospitalizations, although death rates remain about the same.

New Mexico health officials today reported 544 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the statewide total so far to 509,710; DOH has designated 440,894 of those cases as recovered.

Bernalillo County had 175 cases, followed by Sandoval County with 45 and Doña Ana County with 44. Santa Fe County had 36 cases, 14 in the 87505 ZIP code, which ranked 10th in the state among ZIP codes with the most new cases.

According to the most recent weekly vaccine report, between Jan. 24-Feb. 21, 48.9% of COVID-19 cases were among people who had not completed a primary vaccination series; 29.5% were among those who had completed the series but had not received a booster; and 21.6% were among those who were fully vaccinated and boosted. For hospitalizations, those figures change to 64.2%, 20.1% and 15.6%. The percentages shift to 61.7%, 22.5% and 15.8% for fatalities.

Currently, 91.8% percent of adults 18 years and older have had at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and 78% have completed their primary series; 44% of adults 18 years and older have had a booster shot; in the 12-17-year-old age group: 70.9% of people have had at least one dose and 60.8% have completed their primary series; among children ages 5-11: 38% have had at least one dose of the Pfizer vaccine and 28.8% have completed their primary; in Santa Fe County: 99% of people 18 and older have had at least one dose and 86.9% have completed their primary series

The state also announced 30 additional deaths, 20 of them recent, including a female in her 30s from Santa Fe County who had underlying conditions. Santa Fe County has now had 245 deaths; there have been 6,851 statewide. “Everyone of those people is important and lived a unique and important life and they leave behind families and others who are grieving,” Scrase noted today.

As of today, 350 people are hospitalized with COVID-19.* Hospital conditions had remained a main measure by which the state was gauging whether to remove the mask mandate. “I think most hospitals are really feeling like they are out of the woods,” Scrase said, noting that regular and ICU beds had opened up considerably compared to where they have been, as depicted in the graph below. For instance, the state currently has 34 ICU beds available, compared with single digit or numbers in the teens over the last four months.

“That represents about 10% of our ICU beds, which is what a healthy system in normal ties should have open,” Scrase said. “It means if one of us has a heart attack, there will be an ICU bed for us at least somewhere in New Mexico.”

While the state intends to let its Crisis Standards of Care order expire March 11, some hospitals remain at 100% capacity, Scrase said, and “workforce is still our key issue and something we’re still working on with our hospital partners to try to resolve,” he said.

Scrase acknowledged that removing the mask mandate “means is we now have a choice: the responsibility of deciding how to keep ourselves safe, our families safe and our communities safe has moved from state government to the individual. Some people are certainly very glad to have that responsibility and others are puzzled on how to work through that. Just to make sure we’re all clear: Masks are just as effective today as they were two weeks ago.”

Whether people decide to wear masks or not in places where they are no longer required, Scrase put out a call for civility in the face of changing times. “I’m kind of hoping that we can use that wonderful New Mexico inclusiveness that was part of the reason I moved here…and we can all make some sort of commitment in these discussions to start with being more curious and less accusatory.”

New cases

  • 175 new cases in Bernalillo County
  • 5 new cases in Chaves County
  • 13 new cases in Cibola County
  • 7 new cases in Colfax County
  • 18 new cases in Curry County
  • 44 new cases in Doña Ana County
  • 11 new cases in Eddy County
  • 21 new cases in Grant County
  • 4 new cases in Guadalupe County
  • 7 new cases in Lea County
  • 10 new cases in Lincoln County
  • 2 new cases in Los Alamos County
  • 7 new cases in Luna County
  • 13 new cases in McKinley County
  • 12 new cases in Otero County
  • 2 new cases in Quay County
  • 3 new cases in Rio Arriba County
  • 4 new cases in Roosevelt County
  • 45 new cases in Sandoval County
  • 37 new cases in San Juan County
  • 11 new cases in San Miguel County
  • 36 new cases in Santa Fe County
  • 3 new cases in Sierra County
  • 6 new cases in Socorro County
  • 9 new cases in Taos County
  • 1 new case in Torrance County
  • 2 new cases in Union County
  • 30 new cases in Valencia County
  • 2 new cases among individuals held by federal agencies at the Otero County Federal Prison Facility
  • 2 new cases among individuals held by federal agencies at the Torrance County Detention Facility
  • 1 new case among New Mexico Corrections Department inmates at the Central New Mexico Correctional Facility in Valencia County
  • 1 new case among New Mexico Corrections Department inmates at the Penitentiary of New Mexico in Santa Fe County

New fatalities

  • A female in her 50s from Bernalillo County. The individual was hospitalized and had underlying conditions.
  • A male in his 80s from Bernalillo County. The individual was hospitalized and had underlying conditions.
  • A female in her 90s from Bernalillo County. The individual had underlying conditions.
  • A male in his 90s from Bernalillo County. The individual was hospitalized.
  • A male in his 30s from Cibola County. The individual was hospitalized and had underlying conditions.
  • A female in her 60s from Doña Ana County. The individual was hospitalized and had underlying conditions.
  • A male in his 30s from Eddy County. The individual was hospitalized.
  • A male in his 70s from Lea County. The individual had underlying conditions.
  • A male in his 60s from Lincoln County. The individual was hospitalized and had underlying conditions.
  • A female in her 90s from McKinley County.
  • A male in his 50s from Otero County. The individual was hospitalized.
  • A female in her 70s from Otero County. The individual was hospitalized.
  • A female in her 80s from Rio Arriba County.
  • A female in her 90s from Sandoval County. The individual was hospitalized.
  • A male in his 70s from San Juan County. The individual had underlying conditions.
  • A male in his 60s from San Miguel County. The individual was hospitalized.
  • A female in her 30s from Santa Fe County. The individual had underlying conditions.
  • A male in his 90s from Sierra County. The individual was hospitalized.
  • A female in her 80s from Valencia County.
  • A male in his 90s from Valencia County.

Newly reported fatalities from more than 30 days ago

  • A female in her 30s from Bernalillo County. The individual had underlying conditions.
  • A male in his 50s from Bernalillo County. The individual was hospitalized and had underlying conditions.
  • A second male in his 50s from Bernalillo County.
  • A male in his 60s from Bernalillo County.
  • A male in his 20s from Cibola County. The individual had underlying conditions.
  • A female in her 60s from Curry County. The individual was hospitalized and had underlying conditions.
  • A male in his 60s from Sandoval County. The individual was hospitalized and had underlying conditions.
  • A male in his 80s from Taos County. The individual was hospitalized and had underlying conditions.
  • A female in her 40s from Union County. The individual had underlying conditions.
  • A male in his 50s from Union County.

Statewide cases

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

  • Bernalillo County: 144,122
  • Catron County: 401
  • Chaves County: 21,204
  • Cibola County: 6,784
  • Colfax County: 2,368
  • Curry County: 12,438
  • De Baca County: 566
  • Doña Ana County: 62,015
  • Eddy County: 16,903
  • Grant County: 6,481
  • Guadalupe County: 1,078
  • Harding County: 74
  • Hidalgo County: 1,065
  • Lea County: 19,053
  • Lincoln County: 5,121
  • Los Alamos County: 2,610
  • Luna County: 6,623
  • McKinley County: 25,332
  • Mora County: 742
  • Otero County: 13,145
  • Quay County: 1,966
  • Rio Arriba County: 9,618
  • Roosevelt County: 4,940
  • Sandoval County: 32,764
  • San Juan County: 39,976
  • San Miguel County: 5,623
  • Santa Fe County: 27,505
  • Sierra County: 2,003
  • Socorro County: 3,756
  • Taos County: 5,224
  • Torrance County: 2,645
  • Union County: 768
  • Valencia County: 18,226

Cases among people being held by federal agencies

  • Cibola County Correctional Center: 539
  • Otero County Federal Prison Facility: 614
  • Otero County Processing Center: 917
  • Torrance County Detention Facility: 417

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

  • Central New Mexico Correctional Facility in Valencia County: 486
  • Guadalupe County Correctional Facility: 328
  • Lea County Correctional Facility: 933
  • Northeast New Mexico Correctional Facility in Union County: 221
  • Northwest New Mexico Correctional Center in Cibola County: 187
  • Otero County Prison Facility: 589
  • Penitentiary of New Mexico in Santa Fe County: 275
  • Roswell Correctional Center: 368
  • Southern New Mexico Correctional Facility in Doña Ana County: 313
  • Springer Correctional Center in Colfax County: 271
  • Western New Mexico Correctional Facility in Cibola County: 113

*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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