SANTA FE, N.M. (KRQE) – Acting Cabinet Secretary of the New Mexico Department of Health Dr. David Scrase held a press conference Thursday addressing COVID-19 in New Mexico.

The state of New Mexico currently has 575,279 recorded positive cases and 176 current hospitalizations. Over 8,000 New Mexicans have died due to COVID-19 complications.

Health Secretary Dr. David Scrase says COVID-19 cases in New Mexico are going up, but hospitalizations and death rates are still low.

“Bad news and good news, but exactly what we’d expect. The virus actually wants to live with us so it evolves over time to more easily infect people but it reduces the number of people who are killed,” Scrase says.

Scrase says the BA.5 variant of Omicron is emerging as the dominant variant. He says there are predications that the spread rate of this variant could be 18 times higher than the original COVID strain–that’s more infectious than measles.

Scrase says this variant is already resistant to some treatments, and they’re not sure how well the vaccine works against it. However, a lot of breakthrough cases are being reported.

As of Wednesday, New Mexico had 176 hospitalizations with ten people on ventilators. We’ve seen 18 deaths over the past two weeks. “One test positive, one symptom, one risk factor equals treatment. And we’re doing well. We’re cruising from 2,000 to about 2,500 treatments a week,” Scrase says.

The state says only 61 percent of adults under 65 in New Mexico have gotten a booster shot.