NEW MEXICO (KRQE) – As the state continues to see between 4,000 and 6,000 new COVID-19 cases reported each day, New Mexico health officials say the latest forecasts suggest the high number of new omicron-related cases should peak by the end of January or early February. The projection was discussed Wednesday during health leaders’ first public COVID-19 news briefing in two weeks.
“We are at an all-time high in case counts,” said New Mexico Department of Health Acting Secretary Dr. David Scrase. “When will we peak? Currently, the prediction from our modeling team is sometime between January 27 and February 2.”
According to the latest report from the state, nearly 39,000 new COVID-19 cases were registered in New Mexico in the seven-day span between January 11 through January 17. Since the start of 2022, the state has broken the record for the newest cases reported in a single day on multiple occasions. The daily case record now stands at 5,547 cases, reported on Friday, January 13, 2022.
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The early 2022 case count figure New Mexico is now seeing is about twice as high as the last peak in November 2020 and the delta variant spike in late 2021. However, Dr. Scrase says COVID-case hospitalizations have yet to surge with the omicron variant, though the state is encouraged by some new data related to ventilators
“It’s too early to tell for omicron,” Dr. Scrase said. “One promising sign from our hospitals is that … they’re seeing, we’re seeing a definite drop in the percent of people with COVID in the hospital who are on ventilators, so that’s a positive sign.”
On Tuesday, the state reported 624 people hospitalized with COVID-19. Dr. Scrase said Wednesday the ventilator data could be “an early indication” in New Mexico that omicron may be a less serious disease. However, he had a caveat to optimism.
“We don’t have any data that supports some of the contentions from places like South Africa,” Dr. Scrase said. “We won’t really know what the impact of omicron is on hospitals until about two weeks after the peak [of new COVID-19 cases].”
As hospitals remain full with COVID-19 patients adding to what is normally the busy season for patients with other illnesses, seven New Mexico facilities are continuing to operate under crisis standards of care. These include Presbyterian’s two facilities in Albuquerque and their hospital in Española; UNM Hospital’s two Albuquerque-area hospitals; San Juan Regional Medical Center in Farmington; and Gerald Champion Regional Medical Center in Alamogordo.
Amid the omicron case spike, the state pushes forward with its new at-home rapid testing program after securing 400,000 tests to distribute. The state is expected to receive over one million at-home tests in the coming weeks. The state is also planning to help distribute high-quality N95 and KN95 masks. Details on how exactly those tests and masks will be distributed have yet to be released.
“Those two will, A. bridge the gap for our state between now and when the federal supply comes out,” said Dr. Scrase. “And then, provide protective safety layer above it … to help us cover those most vulnerable people in our population.”
In the next week, the New Mexico Department of Health says home test kits will be distributed to emergency managers across 26 counties to the 79 zip codes with the highest social vulnerability index. Tribal communities will also receive test kits.
The state is also working to fix a self-reporting mechanism for people who have a positive COVID-19 infection diagnosed through at-home tests. Dr. Scrase said Wednesday the reporting feature will function through the NM Notify application, which runs through Apple and Android devices.