State estimates COVID-19 more prevalent than confirmed cases show

Coronavirus New Mexico

NEW MEXICO (KRQE) – New Mexico has seen lower daily case counts lately; a good sign as the state looks to reopen more and more. However, state health officials also say there are a lot more unconfirmed cases out there than people might think.

State data shows that roughly 2,000 fewer people are getting tested per day than around this time last month. Health officials are still encouraging anyone with symptoms, as well as anyone who has had contact with a COVID-positive case to get tested.

“We’d like to continue testing as many people as we can, the more we test, the more we can be assured that we’re finding all the cases,” explained Dr. David Scrase, Secretary for the Human Services Dept. “And we’re contacting those people and getting them isolated and getting a list of their contacts, and quarantining those people.”

According to New Mexico’s gating criteria, testing numbers recently dipped below the state’s target of 5,000 tests per day. More recently, testing numbers are going back up.

The state is also using what it calls a ‘positive test multiplier’ from a Presbyterian modeling analysis, estimating the number of actual COVID-19 cases in New Mexico may be 3.4 times the number of confirmed cases over a two-week span.

Graph from Sept. 10 data from New Mexico Department of Health

Using that analysis, the state estimates there could be more than 5,000 COVID cases across the state right now. Nationwide, there’s also been a 15% increase in confirmed child cases over the last two weeks, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.

While children tend to have an easier time with COVID-19, Dr. Scrase acknowledged the struggles families are dealing with, whether their kids are back in school or remote learning. “This is really hard,” said Dr. Scrase. “Particularly kids who rely on being close to friends and peer groups to develop their personality, understand who they are as individuals, and all of those things, this is a tough time.”

He encouraged families to create a COVID-safe ‘bubble’ if they can, with families who know they’re all practicing social distancing and mask-wearing. “If you have a family where you feel safe, you know having those regular interactions can be one way to give the kids an outlet to deal with people their own age that isn’t their parents,” said Dr. Scrase. “Which is probably really important for all of us.”

Dr. Scrase also mentioned New Mexico is about 6,200 influenza vaccinations ahead of last year’s pace, which is a good sign as health officials are encouraging everyone to get a flu shot this season.

New Mexico Coronavirus Resource Guide

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