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As COVID cases rise, NM health officials recommend masking and stocking up on at-home tests

Jernej Furman
Flickr, CC BY 2.0

At a news conference Thursday, Acting New Mexico Health Secretary Dr. David Scrase said he keeps track of how long COVID has been around in his journal, and that this week New Mexico hit day 1,000 as challenges persist. Cases are up, PCR testing is becoming less accessible and indoor masking is recommended in several counties.

Scrase said the DOH modeling team had been watching COVID cases trend downward over the last month, but they’ve been increasing again over the last few days.

New Mexico Department of Heath

Omicron variants remain the most common ones, and Scrase said the updated bivalent booster is working on them, as are oral treatments like Paxlovid.

Despite this, COVID hospitalizations and deaths in the state have risen since October 1, with an average of one New Mexican dying from COVID every day over the last two weeks.

“That death toll will hopefully create a sense of urgency to think about getting access to vaccines and also to treatments should you test positive,” Scrase told New Mexicans.

As Curative plans to close down its PCR testing sites in New Mexico this month, Scrase recommends New Mexicans stock up on at-home antigen tests. He said their accuracy is improved when taken on day three or four of symptoms, with another test two days later, along with really getting that swab up there.

“In order to get an adequate sample, you have to be uncomfortable,” he said. “If you’re not coughing or sneezing or like pulling away from yourself, you’re probably not doing it right.”

New Mexico Department of Health

Scrase added that PCR tests will remain available at local hospitals.

For those in yellow or orange counties on the CDC’s COVID Community Levels map, DOH also recommends the old standby of masking indoors.

“I know that in our dreams we all kind of wish masking was over,” Scrase said. “But it isn’t.”

The flu is also going around, with New Mexico still topping the list nationally. Deputy Health Secretary Laura Parajón said it’s the worst it’s been in three years.

Nash Jones (they/them) is a general assignment reporter in the KUNM newsroom and the local host of NPR's All Things Considered (weekdays on KUNM, 5-7 p.m. MT). You can reach them at nashjones@kunm.org or on Twitter @nashjonesradio.
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