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Eight counties at high COVID levels where CDC recommends indoor masking

080522SandovalCOVID 2.jpg
Jered Ebenreck
CDC Community Transmission Map, used by Health Care Workers, like Acting Secretary Dr. David Scrase at NMDOH, to advise at-risk patients, LEFT, (the CDC metric of risk, determined by transmission and test positivity rates, used by NMDOH and CDC to advise localities before February 25, 2022) vs. COVID Community Levels Map, RIGHT, (the current metric that triangulates transmission with hospitalization data like COVID19 admissions and ICU use). Current CDC/NMDOH guidance to the general public is determined by the metric on the right. Both metrics are still available via the CDC COVID-19 Data Tracker--these are for Sandoval County from August 5, 2022, reflecting reported data from 7/26-8/3/22. These maps are reflective of the previous week, not projections.

New Mexico now has eight counties at the highest levels of COVID-19, three less than last week, according to the updated Centers for Disease Control and Prevention community levels map. Still populous counties like Bernalillo and Sandoval are red and the CDC and state health officials recommend that anyone in such counties wear N95 masks indoors in public settings.

Coronavirus transmission rates confirm the rapid spread of the BA.5 variant in New Mexico. The 7-day average rate for hospitalizations to COVID-19 is now similar to the start of August 2021 as the Delta wave hit the state. During a briefing Thursday by the Department of Health, Acting Secretary Dr. David Scrase expressed cautious optimism about the pandemic.

"The disease itself seems to be causing a lot less hospitalizations as a percentage of people who get COVID than previous strains. So that's good news for us, right?"

Scrase warned the current rate of cases is too high. The CDC defines high transmission as 28 cases for every 100,000 people; New Mexico is steady at 38 per 100,000. At the previous COVID update on July 14th, Dr. Scrase estimated that there are up to eight additional people with COVID for every confirmed case, unreported in part due to at-home testing.

From July 28 to August 4, New Mexico reported 5,560 hundred cases, almost as many doses as the state has administered of Paxlovid, the antiviral that Scrase credits with reducing hospitalizations, in part.

"Now we're up to 4000 people a week. It's a medicine that's right for almost everybody," he said during the briefing.

New Mexico recently became the state with the 5th highest COVID mortality rate in the country. Seven counties now have “green” or low levels. Half the state, 18 counties, are yellow or medium levels. He said patients have to check with providers about using Paxlovid. DOH still recommends public health fundamentals no matter which variant drives cases: N95 masks, tests, adequate ventilation and vaccines, especially in preparation for the return to school.

"This is a really good time to think about the COVID vaccine for kids newly entering school," he said.

Here's an updated list of resources for those impacted by COVID-19 at KUNM.org. The most recent DOH briefing can be found via their Facebook page; the slides from the presentation can be found on their website.

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