NEW MEXICO (KRQE) – Amid a massive national rise in COVID-19 cases tied to the omicron variant, state health leaders now estimate 50% to 60% of the new COVID-19 cases in New Mexico are related to omicron and they expect the more contagious variant to continue to surge. State health leaders provided an update on the latest virus trends during a virtual news conference Wednesday afternoon.

While calling the variant “serious,” New Mexico Department of Health Acting Secretary Dr. David Scrase highlighted significant differences in the surging variant. State health officials say while omicron appears to be more resistant to certain medical treatments, the variant appears to be causing lower rates of hospitalization and death.

“I think we have reason to be cautiously optimistic, we’d like to see a little more data,” Dr. Scrase said Wednesday. “Omicron is here, it’s serious, and in another week or two, it’ll be 100 percent of the new cases in our state.”

State health officials estimate omicron is as much as 10-times more transmissible than the original strain of COVID-19 that New Mexico first detected in the state in March 2020. Across the U.S., the CDC now estimates 95% of the new COVID cases in the U.S. are related to the omicron variant.

On Wednesday, the state reported one of the highest single-day totals of new COVID-19 cases since November 2021, with 2,514 new cases. According to state data, the 7-day test positivity rate is 20.6%, meaning one in every five COVID-19 tests with the state is turning up positive for the virus.

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“We will be seeing a rise in cases, we’re very confident, over the next two to four weeks here in New Mexico,” Dr. Scrase said. “I believe the rolling 7-day average is likely to surpass the previous high point in mid-November of 2020.”

Amid a rise in case, New Mexico has announced it will adopt new quarantine and isolation guidance from the CDC. Those new guidelines cut the length of isolation restrictions for Americans who catch the coronavirus from ten days to five days while continuing to wear a well-fitting mask through tens days following a positive test. NMDOH hasn’t stated exactly when the state plans to adopt the new CDC guidelines.

“They did look up a lot of the evidence regarding transmission rates,” NMDOH Deputy Secretary Laura Parajon said. “Most of the transmission happens before the five days, and then less transmission after the five days with mask-wearing as an important component of that.”

Dr. Parajon said the New Mexico Department of Public Education is still evaluating the CDC guidance on quarantine and isolation. She emphasized the CDC policy isn’t for every scenario.

“It’s not for every single person and every single setting,” Dr. Parajon said. “This is a guidance for the general population … it’s not recommended for long-term care facilities and homeless shelters, that’s still 10 days, people who are immunocompromised, it’s not for everybody.”

With the rise of the omicron variant, state health officials are also keeping an eye on the effectiveness of several treatments being used to fight the virus. The state says it is concentrating its efforts on administering more treatments with Remdesivir and Sotrovimab intravenous treatments.

“We are now learning that both BAM-ETE and Regeneron (monoclonal antibody treatments) are not effective treatments against omicron,” Dr. Scrase said. “With us being over 50% (of new COVID cases being that of the omicron variant) we’re in the process of diverting to other options than those two (treatments.)”

The state is also working on getting more oral treatments of the FDA’s two approved drugs, including Molnupiravir, a drug made by Merck, and Paxlovid, a drug made by Pfizer. So far, New Mexico has received 170 courses of treatment of Paxlovid, and 770 courses of Molnupiravir. Respectively, the drugs have shown an 88% and 30% reduction in the rates of hospitalizations and death.