NEW MEXICO (KRQE) – Every two weeks, the state updates its “Red to Turquoise Map” to determine how strict each county’s COVID-19 restrictions will be. However, health officials now say there’s a chance the vaccine could change how those decisions are made.
New Mexico Human Services Secretary, Dr. David Scrase, told KRQE News 13 state health officials are testing a hypothesis that the more people vaccinated, may impact each community’s COVID-19 test positivity rates.
“We’re wondering, is that gonna make it more likely that only sicker people will get tested and therefore the test positivity rate goes up again? So the modeling team this week, we launched that discussion on the future of the test positivity rate, and I think there’s a general feeling that it may go up with the vaccinations and people getting less testing,” explained Dr. Scrase. “So we’re gonna start modeling that, and looking at that, and coming up with a longer-term way of evaluating community safety.”
Currently, only one out of the state’s 33 counties is in the Red Level. Guadalupe County is the only county with a test positivity rate higher than 5%. According to the state Department of Health, stats show Guadalupe County actually has one of the highest percentages of its population now fully vaccinated against COVID-19 at 40.4%.
Right now, counties can only get out of the Red Level if their two-week average test positivity rate is 5% or less, or if their daily case rate is less than eight per 100,000 people. Dr. Scrase says at this time there is no plans to change that eight per 100,000 criteria. However, the test positivity rate criteria could change.
“We have to specifically test the hypothesis about the number of tests and the number of positive tests and model that a little bit,” said Dr. Scrsae. “So, I’m hoping and thinking that by the time we get 50% of our population vaccinated, we’re gonna need to have an answer,” he added.
Health officials will be evaluating test positivity rates over the next few weeks. As of right now, there are no changes expected within the next week to the county Red to Turquoise Map that will be updated once again on Wednesday, March 24th.
“Anything we evaluate has the potential to change, otherwise we’re wasting our time evaluating a lot of things we shouldn’t be,” explained Dr. Scrase. “So I would assume that this is really up for consideration and study and research based on New Mexico’s data. We’re working and talking about this with our Economic Recovery Council and our Mayors Council, and they provide a lot of valuable input from a community perspective,” he added.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says once you’ve been fully vaccinated, you don’t need to isolate or get tested even if you’ve come into contact with someone who’s COVID-positive unless you have symptoms.