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New booster for COVID-19 variant available in New Mexico as COVID hospitalizations decline

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Hyttalo Souza via Unsplash
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Unsplash license

For the first time in months, the CDC’s COVID-19 Community Level map shows not a single county in New Mexico is red, which would indicate high levels. That means fewer people are being hospitalized due to the virus. But the same updated data from the CDC continues to show that the transmission rates of COVID remain high, with that map turning very red. Fortunately, New Mexicans can now access boosters that target the Omicron variants of the virus.

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Jered Ebenreck/CDC
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CDC COVID Data Tracker
A tale of two maps: 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 De Baca County from September 8, 2022, reflecting reported data from 8/31-9/7/22. These maps are reflective of the previous week, not projections

The Department of Health says the BA.5 sub-variant accounts for around 80% of the COVID-19 cases in New Mexico. DOH is getting an initial allotment of 54,400 doses of the new booster and will no longer be scheduling appointments for the previous versions of the booster shots.

These new boosters are free until the federal government shifts vaccine costs to health insurance companies and consumers. This policy continues to leave vaccination up to individual judgment and access, which frustrates disability advocates like Beatrice Adler-Bolton, co-author of Health Communism.

"This is a public health crisis that is being privatized before our eyes," said Bolton.

The new booster is unavailable for those under 12. DOH also reports only 1 in 4 of those aged 12-24 are up to date on their COVID vaccinations.

New Mexico reported over 30 deaths from COVID since the beginning of September. The state continues to have the 5th highest COVID mortality rate among states and territories– McKinley County now ranks 4th among counties since the pandemic began. Last month, a study found that Native Americans lost 6.4 years in life expectancy since 2019 due to the pandemic, over three more years than Whites.

De Baca County alone shows low, or blue, rates of viral spread on the COVID transmission map, while 18 counties show red or high levels of COVID transmission. Proper use of N95 masks indoors reduces the spread of the virus.

FEMA offers up to $9,000 of assistance for COVID funeral expenses — call 844-684-6333 to apply. The FEMA program is included in the updated list of COVID-19 resources. Those who need the new Omicron-specific boosters can register at cv.nmhealth.org. The next DOH COVID Briefing on Sept. 15th at 2 pm will be available on the NMDOH Facebook page.

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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