Home News COVID-19 Situation State examining changes for Red to Green risk assessment

State examining changes for Red to Green risk assessment

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As New Mexico’s COVID-19 cases decrease and vaccinations increase, state health officials are considering changes to its risk assessment system.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now recommends that only people who have symptoms of COVID-19 get tested for the disease. That, combined with lower case counts and more vaccinations, could actually mean test positivity rates will increase, Dr. David Scrase, New Mexico secretary of Human Services, said in a livestreamed press conference Wednesday.

“We think in the next two to four weeks that will become a real phenomenon, and we don’t want to start penalizing counties as that test positivity rate moves up,” he said.

Scrase said a study in the state last fall showed that among people with COVID-19 symptoms who were tested, the positivity rate was 16%, while among those who were asymptomatic it was 4.9%.

Test positivity is one of the two gating criteria the state uses in its Red to Green risk assessment system.

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Scrase said state officials are still determining what metrics to use but will likely announce a new system soon.

“I think we should have something in the next two to four weeks to revisit that in a way that will no longer have test positivity be a critical factor,” he said.

Some changes have already been made to the Red to Green system so counties with small populations won’t move back and forth between levels with only small case counts.

For example, in Harding County, with a population of 657 people, just one case in a two-week period would adjust to eight cases per 100,000 people, Scrase said. That would have put the county in the Red Level in this week’s assessment.

The state will apply an interim “fix” in calculating the risk assessment for seven counties with fewer than 6,250 people — Harding, De Baca, Catron, Union, Hidalgo, Guadalupe and Mora — until a new system is in place, Scrase said.

Secretary of the Department of Health Dr. Tracie Collins gave an update on vaccination efforts in the state. While the state is still giving priority to health care workers, everyone 75 and older, and those 60 and older with a chronic health condition, Collins said the state is making plans to open Phase 2, which is essentially all New Mexicans age 16 and older, in mid April.

Two out of every five New Mexicans 16 or older have received at least one dose of vaccine and nearly one in four are fully vaccinated, Collins said.

In Chaves County, 28% of the population 16 or older has had at least one dose and 16% are fully vaccinated, according to the NMDOH vaccination dashboard.

In its daily case update Wednesday, the health department reported 218 new cases of COVID-19 in 23 counties, with three new cases in Chaves County.

The total number of cases in the state is now 190,275, with 91% of those considered recovered.

The Chaves County total has been adjusted for two cases determined to be duplicated reports, according to Wednesday’s press release. That total is now 8,708, with 96% considered recovered.

No local deaths related to COVID-19 were among the six reported Wednesday. San Juan County reported three deaths with Bernalillo, Doña Ana and Sandoval counties each reporting one.

The total number of deaths in the state is 3,909.

The number of hospitalizations in the state was not available due to a disruption in reporting, according to the press release.

City/RISD reporter Juno Ogle can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 205, or reporter04@rdrnews.com.

To keep up with local coverage of the coronavirus, go to rdrnews.com/category/news/covid-19-situation/.