New Mexico case rate improving, but not out of the woods yet

Coronavirus New Mexico

SANTA FE, N.M. (KRQE) – New Mexico has work to do when it comes to taming the coronavirus. While new COVID-19 cases fell, slightly, hospitalizations and deaths are staying high as we head into the Christmas and New Years’ holidays. “We still have a lot more work to do,” Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said. “We have a lot of risk out there.”

In the press conference, the governor said it took 234 days, longer than seven months, to reach the milestone of 1,000 COVID-related deaths in New Mexico. It took a fraction of that time to reach 2,000. “A terrible, grim milestone. It has only taken 48 days for New Mexico to go from 1,000 to 2,000 deaths. You can see the exponential rate at which infections are occurring, hospitalizations are occurring,” Lujan Grisham said Thursday.

Plus, Thursday’s death count is record breaking at 48. The governor said three of those people are in their 40s. Another seven are in their 50s. “I am very concerned that 48 may not be the highest number we see in the next several weeks,” the governor said.

While cases did drop drastically during the two-week reset, Dr. David Scrase says we will see this curve go back up in the coming days. The northwest is back to being the state’s hotspot, but overall the state is improving.

The governor said that 23 of the state’s 33 counties improved in both test positivity and new case rates are letting them inch toward the yellow level. “So what I’m hoping the takeaway from both of these is that the vast majority of the state is moving collectively together, not just to get to yellow, but in fact, to get to green. These are the kinds of productive signs we were frankly hoping for,” the governor said.

As for the Pfizer vaccine, New Mexico has received all of its allotted initial 17,550 doses that went to more than 30 hospitals statewide and three pueblos. However, the governor said they will not be done vaccinating all the healthcare workers by the end of the year. Even the state’s top doctor, David Scrase, isn’t slated to get his until January. “I think the delivery system is really thoughtful to distribute this according to risk and those with the most likelihood and highest risk first and working through,” Scrase said.

The state said it is working on a vaccine dashboard that will show shipments in, deliveries and how many are distributed per day. They expect that to be up and running next week. Pfizer’s next shipment is expected to be here next week. The state also expects the Moderna vaccine to be approved which will be given primarily to residents and staff in long-term care facilities.

The state amended the current Public Health Order on Wednesday, increasing capacity inside essential retail spaces. The change applies to grocery stores and certain big-box retailers that generate a percentage of their revenue from consumable food and drink products. The amendment allows more customers inside stores, getting rid of the 75 customer limit, and only utilizes the percentage format.

In accordance with the state’s red-to-green system that measures the risk of viral spread in specific counties, the changes establish that essential retail spaces:

  • May operate at 50% of maximum occupancy at the Green Level
  • May operate at 33% of maximum occupancy at the Yellow Level
  • May operate at 25% of maximum occupancy at the Red Level

The state also reported on Wednesday that all 33 counties in New Mexico are in the red zone, however, the outlook for coronavirus is improving. The state reported that 27 counties improved in at least one of the two health gating criteria metrics and 23 improved in both metrics.

The governor said while a few counties could be in the yellow phase of reopening by year end, she expects a case spike in January following the holidays. “I don’t want it,” Lujan Grisham said. “I want to be completely surprised that doesn’t happen, but we know it is incredibly high risk, and we have to brace.”

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