SANTA FE, N.M. (KRQE) – State health officials say New Mexico’s latest COVID-19 trends show the state is continuing to deal with consistent, high numbers of new cases week after week. The continued trend comes as the state reached a grim milestone on Monday.

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The state’s COVID-19 death toll surpassed 5,000 people on Monday, as the New Mexico Department of Health reported 15 additional deaths related to the virus over the week. As of Wednesday morning, the state’s COVID-19 death toll was at 5,012.

At a news conference Wednesday, New Mexico Department of Health Epidemiologist Dr. Christine Ross described the state’s current COVID-case trend as “fueled by Delta,” the highly infectious variant of COVID-19. The state peaked with Delta-related cases in mid-August to early September but has since maintained a high number of new COVID cases.

“We clearly flattened this curve, but it is not trending down as we would like to see it,” Dr. Ross said. “We are sitting on this very uncomfortable plateau, which is highly impacting our health care delivery system and all of us here in New Mexico.”

According to a report published Monday, October 25, the state saw 5,598 new COVID-19 cases in the prior 7-days. That number represents an increase compared to the week prior. A report published on Monday, October 18 indicates New Mexico saw 4,795 new COVID-19 cases over the period between October 12 and 18.

On Wednesday, the state reported 959 new COVID-19 cases. 226 people were admitted to New Mexico hospitals with COVID-19 over the last seven days, according to an NMDOH report published this week. That’s only slightly less than the 240 people reported hospitalized in the week prior.

“We’re seeing this upward trend again in hospitalizations,” NMDOH Acting Secretary Dr. David Scrase said. “Right now, we have a lot of people in the hospital, way more than last year (2020) at this time, with non-COVID illnesses.

“About this plateau, what’s going on, why are we seeing this? We’re not entirely sure,” Dr. Scrase said. “It could be a lot of different things.” In a later question and answer segment, Dr. Scrase said he believes a combination of factors including New Mexico’s early vaccination rates, some evidence surrounding waning immunity, and the infectiousness of the Delta variant could all be plausible reasons for the continued plateau.

On the vaccination front, the state is preparing to begin vaccinating kids ages 5 to 11 with Pfizer’s vaccine by early November if federal approval goes as experts are projecting. The state has launched a new element of its online vaccine website to ensure parents can monitor accounts of and register juvenile dependents. That site can be reached at:

New Mexico is also working to get the word out about booster shots. The FDA and CDC have approved boosters for both Pfizer and Modernas vaccines for groups including those 65-years and older, people 18 and older who live in long-term care settings, people 18 and older who have underlying medical conditions, people 18 and older who work or live in high-risk settings. Booster shots are also now allowed to be from a different brand from an initial vaccination series.

People who received Johnson and Johnson booster shots can receive an additional COVID-vaccination shot from the same vaccine, Moderna or Pfizer two months after their single primary dose. Anyone who received a Moderna or Pfizer vaccination series has to wait six months until after their second dose to receive a booster for any available brand.

So far, New Mexico has dolled out more than 125,843 booster doses between August 1 and October 24. The state says those numbers are continuing to trend upward.

On the topic of New Mexico’s mask mandate, state health officials said its unlikely the state will loosen or relax mask policies until it is seeing an average of around 210 or less cases per day.

“When we show a map of New Mexico (community transmission) that’s completely red, that’s not a cue for us to think about how to relax our restrictions,” Dr. David Scrase said. “I still go back to that gating criteria of cases per 100,000 and I think that number if I remember correctly was 10. So 210 cases a day, when we got to that level, I think that’s when the conversations would begin.”