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New data puts 11 counties at high COVID-19 levels as CDC revises COVID guidance ahead of new school year

081222GrantCOVID 2.jpg
Jered Ebenreck/CDC
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CDC COVID Tracker
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 Grant County from August 11, 2022, reflecting reported data from 8/3-8/11/22. These maps are reflective of the previous week, not projections.

Nationally,  almost 500 people are dying daily of COVID19 on average. In New Mexico, it’s five per day. That’s less than two weeks ago and hospitalizations have declined. But the number of counties at the highest levels of the virus rose to 11 this week according to the latest data from the CDC, including Bernalillo. The CDC and state health officials recommend wearing N95 masks indoors, in public settings in such counties, but there are no mandates in place.

In July, Acting Health Secretary, Dr. David Scrase, told KUNM, in the 3rd year of the pandemic, DOH lacks staff and remaining staff are stressed, especially in epidemiology. For example, Scrase estimates, based on a CDC study on public health worker stress, that suicidal ideation may impact almost 250 people out of about 3,000 employees at DOH.

"Absent other adjustments, we would be hard pressed right now to respond to all the public health needs," he said.

Monkeypox and long COVID add to that strain. There are now over 10,000 cases of monkeypox nationally with 16 cases in New Mexico. DOH states if you are concerned about the risk of monkeypox, call their screening center at 855-600-3453. About 1 in 5, or 20% of COVID survivors aged 18-64, experience a long COVID condition.

Mia Ives-Rublee from the Disability Justice Initiative at the Center for American Progress pointed out that reducing COVID transmission reduces long COVID, a new disability.

"The let ‘er rip model that we've been going by, is not helpful to anybody," she said.

But on Thursday, the CDC relaxed its recommendations on testing, isolation, quarantine, and social distancing, especially for schools, while emphasizing extra steps high-risk individuals should follow. One out of three New Mexicans are at high risk for severe illness from COVID-19 according to DOH.

New Mexico now has the 5th highest COVID mortality rate in the country and over 83 hundred have died in the state. McKinley County is the 10th highest mortality rate of all counties in the U.S. at 859 deaths per 100,000 people. Ten counties now have “green” or low levels–12 counties are yellow or medium levels.

This is an updated list of resources for those impacted by COVID-19. KUNM's Taylor Velazquez interviewed Mia Ives-Rublee.

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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