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New Mexico COVID numbers continue to rise

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State health officials on Wednesday reported 1,357 New confirmed COVID-19 cases and 25 deaths as numbers continue to rise around the state. KUNM’s Jered Ebenreck attended a press conference with New Mexico Department of Health officials to get an update on variants, vaccinations and safety guidelines ahead of the holidays. He spoke with KUNM All Things Considered host, Nash Jones.

KUNM: We had the first case of the omicron variant detected in New Mexico this week in a Bernalillo County resident. What did health officials say about the transmission severity in vaccines with regard to this variant?

JERED EBENRECK: Well, compared to other variants they showed a slide that has several question marks, indicating that still too much is unknown about the omicron variant and how much it transmits, how fast and how severe the disease is. Early studies do say it transmits more quickly, but it's not clear how that works in New Mexico, in the United States in vaccinated populations. Lastly, they say vaccination is still effective. And please do get tested. Testing still detects this variant omicron.

KUNM: And the US has now surpassed 800,000 deaths due to COVID-19, where we are in New Mexico with deaths from the virus?

EBENRECK: Unfortunately, we just crossed the 5500 mark here in New Mexico, with 5,516 death today reported. This is not a good situation. Another questioner asked the state epidemiologist, Dr. Christine Ross, if we were anywhere near ending the crisis that we're currently in, and this is what she had to say:

“We're not near the end game when our healthcare delivery system is being completely overwhelmed, and is in has to declare crisis standard of care.”

So it's a powerful set of statements from her about the fact that we're going to be still living with us as we move into 2022.

KUNM: And now it's been one year since the vaccine was rolled out what percentage of people are fully vaccinated in New Mexico?

EBENRECK: Yeah, well, Dr. Laura Parajon, the deputy health secretary, was celebrating the one-year anniversary of this vaccine today and noting that 63.5% of New Mexicans eligible for the vaccine are vaccinated. That would be 75.1% of those 18 and over, and 22.4% of those 5 to 11 have had at least one dose.

KUNM: Alright, at least one dose and what are the plans to increase those vaccination rates?

EBENRECK: One of the more notable things is these FEMA tour vans, as they aptly called them. FEMA supplied four buses to New Mexico to help do vaccinations across the state. And then there's going to be a series of other mass vaccination events, coordinated by NMDOH and private partners.

KUNM: All right, and what are some of the key things that health officials want New Mexicans to do ahead of the holidays to stay safe?

EBENRECK: In some ways, it's the same as it ever was. But they emphasize that this is really for your broader community in your family. They want you to get vaccinated. They want the children that are eligible to get vaccinated. They want the whole family to get vaccinated so you can gather safely with your elders and with all the other people at risk within your community. They also emphasize get tested if you've been exposed at all, even if vaccinated and asymptomatic, please get tested. Home testing, testing sites, pursue it help us keep track of it with a surveillance.

Resources:

New Mexico COVID Testing Sites

Video of NMDOH Press Conference

Jered Ebenreck has been involved in community radio for 30 years--from college radio in Maryland to KGNU, Boulder to WOMR, Provincetown to KUNM in 2004. Having served in a volunteer capacity for 17 years, Jered joined the KUNM Newsroom to offer Public Health reporting and analysis while pursuing a graduate program in Public Health at UNM, with an emphasis on Social Ecology. Jered, with the help of his partner, is a caregiver for his mother. Jered can be contacted via jeredebenreck@kunm.org or via Twitter @JeredEbenreck
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  • The omicron variant of COVID-19 has been confirmed in 10 states as of Friday, Dec. 3, including our neighbors in Colorado and Utah. While the variant is causing concern, New Mexico hospital officials earlier this week urged the public to not panic, but remain vigilant.