NEW MEXICO (KRQE) – As the state approaches the two year anniversary of the first COVID cases confirmed in New Mexico, cases and hospitalizations are dropping to the lowest levels in months. New Mexico health leaders gave an update on the virus’ trends during a news conference Wednesday, saying the two key indicators of the virus’ prevalence in the state are continuing to drop meteorically.

“That meteoric drop in case counts and even hospitalizations has persisted,” New Mexico’s Acting Department of Health Secretary Dr. David Scrase said Wednesday. “Hospitalizations were in the five-hundreds (number patients admitted with COVID,) they’ve dropped by more than 50-percent and you can see improvement there.”

On Tuesday, New Mexico reported 252 people hospitalized with COVID-19. The last time hospitalizations were that low was around August 10, 2021.

Dr. Scrase said in part discussed changes the state is making in reporting COVID cases to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC.) Recognizing a change in the presence of the virus in most American communities, the CDC announced long-awaited changes to masking guidance last Friday, focusing more so on COVID-related hospitalizations versus case counts.

Under the new guidance, called “COVID-19 Community Levels,” counties with “high” rates of COVID in the community are advised to wear a well-fitting mask indoors in public. Counties with low or medium rates of COVID in the community place focus on mask use for immunocompromised people or people at high risk for severe disease.

Tuesday, Dr. Scrase confirmed the state would adopted the CDC’s latest guidance as state policy. However, the department says it currently had no plans to use the CDC’s new COVID community measurements to implement any mandates or county-to-county policies in the response to the virus.

“I think it’s valuable information we can all use to make decisions,” Dr. Scrase. “We will start reporting that data on the percent of hospital beds taken by COVID patients per week, the number of new hospitalizations per weeks so you can see that.”

When asked what it would take to see some levels of mandates return in response to the pandemic, Dr. Scrase acknowledged the possibility of a high number of cases and ineffective medical treatments. However, Scrase said he doesn’t think there’s any discussion today of future mandates.

“I think we’re trying to fully arm every New Mexican, or at least give them the opportunity to be fully armed with every resource they need to fight the pandemic,” Dr. Scrase said. “It’s really a speculative question [wondering what it would take to reimplement mandates,] and I’m hoping by giving every New Mexico the tools they need that we can transfer that kind of decision make responsibility to the populous and now have it be so tightly held within government.”

Under the CDC’s currently available measurements last updated on February 24, Bernalillo County is among 16 New Mexico counties considered at a “medium” COVID community level. Find out what your county’s COVID community level is by clicking this link.

New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan announced a surprise end to the indoor mask mandate nearly two weeks ago, on February 17. The state had been under an indoor mask mandate since August 2021.

According to a report published Monday, New Mexico recorded just 2,322 new COVID cases between February 22 and 28, 2022. Last month in the peak of the the omicron variant, New Mexico recorded 38,886 new COVID cases in the week between January 11 and 17, 2022.