“Early on, we felt panic because there were a lot of things we didn’t know”: COVID-19 one year later

Coronavirus New Mexico

NEW MEXICO (KRQE) – Thursday marks one year since the first COVID-19 cases were confirmed in New Mexico. State leaders gave a webinar update on where New Mexico stands and where we’re headed. More than 3,800 New Mexicans have died from COVID-19 over the past year. Thursday’s webinar started with a moment of silence to remember those lives lost.

“Early on, we felt panic because there were a lot of things we didn’t know. We had to build systems as we were making decisions,” said Katrina Hotrum-Lopez, secretary for New Mexico Aging and Long-Term Services Department.

“One thing I remember is the governor being very clear about the need for data and I wondered, where do we get it from?” said New Mexico Human Services Department Secretary Dr. David Scrase.

Nearly 9% of New Mexicans have had a confirmed case and more than 13,000 New Mexicans were hospitalized with the virus. Dr. Scrase broke down the numbers and showed what would’ve happened if New Mexico did nothing to stop the spread; no masks, no closures.

“Unchecked if we’d done absolutely nothing, no measures whatsoever, it would’ve been similar to early days in Wuhan, China. We would’ve seen 80% to 90% of our population infected. Completely overwhelmed our delivery systems and had 15,000 deaths total,” Dr. Scrase said.

Presbyterian modeled data and analysts at Los Alamos National Laboratory think it’s an underestimate. Their data shows if nothing was done, the state would’ve had 1.8 million cases accounting for out-of-state travelers who get tested in the state, nearly 95,000 hospitalizations and nearly 19,000 deaths. Dr. Scrase credits COVID-safe practices and the strict public health orders as to why those numbers never happened.

New Mexico is reporting a seven-day average of 229 cases, the lowest the state has seen since September. State health officials also pointed out that New Mexico is leading the nation in getting shots in arms with 26% of New Mexicans having one shot and 15% fully vaccinated.

Dr. Scrase said for every new case reported in the state each day, the state is vaccinating 50 people and it’s making a huge difference. “Over 60% reductions in cases now attributing to the vaccine,” Dr. Scrase said.

As it stands now, new, daily COVID-19 cases are still on a plateau. Dr. Scrase made his priority for the next year clear. “Number one is keep doing what we’re doing and get us to the end of this pandemic. According to my little spread sheet, we’re about two-thirds of the way through this today and I think it’s going to get better, it’s going to get easier. You saw the map, it’s turning green, and even turquoise, which is really good news,” Dr. Scrase said.

The New Mexico Department of Health also announced a shift in focus on the vaccination front targeting New Mexicans aged 60 and up with serious health problems among the people currently eligible for the vaccine. State leaders also reflected on their toughest days during the pandemic. Dr. Scrase said December 14 was his darkest day as cases skyrocketed they realized what they had done, was not enough and they were running out of room in hospitals.

State leaders also praised everyone’s efforts to lower cases, pointing out more than a third of the state’s counties are now at the green or turquoise level of the state’s county framework. On average, the state is now vaccinating nearly 12,500 people a day.

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