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Governor says there will be no return to COVID-19 mandates this winter

NMCOVIDlevels 10_20_22.jpg
Jered Ebenreck/CDC
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CDC COVID Data Tracker
CDC Community Transmission Map, used by health care workers, like Acting Secretary Dr. David Scrase at New Mexico Department of Health, to advise at-risk patients (Left), is the CDC metric of risk, determined by transmission and test positivity rates. It was used by NMDOH and CDC to advise localities before February 25, 2022. The COVID Community Levels Map (Right) is the current metric that combines 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 New Mexico from October 20, 2022, reflecting reported data from 10/12-10/19/22. These maps are reflective of the previous week, not projections

Seven New Mexico counties, including McKinley and San Miguel, have medium community levels of COVID-19 according to the latest CDC data. But when the metric is COVID transmission alone, without considering hospitalizations, that green and yellow map turns an alarming red and orange.

Transmissions rates are used by health care workers, like Acting Secretary Dr. David Scrase at New Mexico Department of Health, to advise at-risk patients.

Nationally, health officials warn that colder months could bring a surge in cases as people gather indoors. But Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said mandatory measures are not going to happen. KUNM’s Jered Ebenreck has this update.

Lujan Grisham is running for re-election in part on her pandemic response and told KUNM this week that mandates like masking and shutdowns are off the table this winter.

“And the reason is because we've done an effective job at making sure people have access — ready access — to vaccines.And that means that we don't overrun hospitals. And now we've got much more viable treatments, including Paxlovid,” Lujan Grisham Said.  

Meanwhile, only 5.5% of eligible New Mexicans over 18 have had the new bivalent shot for the Omicron variant. Almost three-fourths of deaths in New Mexico due to COVID are among the unvaccinated since February, 2021, according to the Department of Health. While death rates are less than one per day in New Mexico, in the last four weeks, almost half the deaths are among those with the primary series completed and at least one booster, without considering the new jab.

Also, the CDC moved from daily to weekly COVID case and death reporting on October 20. The CDC states it will reduce the reporting burden on states with limited surveillance resources. In an email, DOH states it will be reviewing its reporting schedule and changes could be announced between now and the next DOH briefing in November. 10.

DOH leadership did meet with the CDC Director Rochelle Walensky to discuss how data is reported, Health Secretary Scrase said in a September briefing. At the time, Scrase celebrated the CDC’s data dashboards like the Community Levels Map.

“We just told her how delighted we were to be able to join forces and have this be our public health report," Scrase said. "She also thanked New Mexico for being one of the most consistent and reliable data submitters to the CDC.”

The latest DOH Pediatric Case Report shows that New Mexico experienced a summer surge in cases among those under 18. The report underlines the danger to the youngest. Since the pandemic started, those aged 0-4 are hospitalized at the highest rate for those under 18 and even eclipsed the adult rate at the start of August. Hispanic children have been 57% of all those hospitalized while Indigenous children have the highest hospitalization rate–twice that of white children.

The latest DOH COVID Mortality Report reveals that half of current deaths due to COVID-19 are among people with no underlying condition–a number only matched when the department began collecting data in March 2020, before vaccines were available. Those over 75 remain most at risk of death to COVID with 11.8% of their cases resulting in fatalities.

New Mexico now shares 5th place with Arkansas for all time COVID mortality rates with over 8600 New Mexicans reported dead from COVID-19. Nationally, just under 400 people die daily on average.

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