When someone tests positive, they’re contacted by someone with the state who will ask them where they’ve been in the last two weeks, or where they may have been exposed. Still, the state’s lead epidemiologist says it’s not an easy thing to pinpoint.
Finding, tracking, and isolating positive COVID-19 cases in New Mexico has been a priority for health officials in the pandemic.
“Our test positivity is lower than most other states,” said Dr. Chad Smelser, Acting State Epidemiologist for the New Mexico Department of Health. “This is partially due to the fact that we do better testing.”
In an online webinar, Dr. Smelser went over a newly released report on the state’s website, showing breakdowns of COVID-19 case rates by region, ethnicity, age, gender, and more. “Hispanic or Latino, you can see that that’s been increasing and is our highest percentage of new cases by week for race and ethnicity,” explained Dr. Smelser.
The state is also trying to track where people may have been exposed to COVID-19 before testing positive. “Although we can’t tie it exactly, where have they been in the 14 days prior to their positive test result or symptom onset,” said Dr. Smelser.
The top answer has been consistently travel-related exposure, with an uptick after July 4, and then again around Labor Day weekend. “Travel has been consistently our highest potential place or manner in which people were exposed,” said Dr. Smelser. “Again, it doesn’t prove causation.”
According to the state’s data, the second-highest possible exposure is from ‘attending other gatherings.’ The third highest is visits to restaurants and breweries, then gyms and places of worship.
Correctional facilities and residents in long-term care facilities were excluded from that state report showing possible exposures to COVID-19. Currently, roughly 3.2% of COVID-19 tests in New Mexico come back positive. Texas and Arizona currently have test positivity rates higher than 10%.