Home News COVID-19 Situation Scrase: No ‘vaccine passport’ from New Mexico

Scrase: No ‘vaccine passport’ from New Mexico

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With tourism season approaching amid increasing COVID-19 vaccinations and decreasing cases of the disease, a New Mexico State health official said the state does not have plans for a “vaccine passport” and that such a measure would be better administered by the federal government.

New Mexico Secretary of Human Services Dr. David Scrase said in a livestreamed press conference Wednesday New Mexico has no plans to implement vaccine passports — digital proof of one’s vaccination against COVID-19.

“At the present time, we do not have any plans for passports. There are some states that are and some states that aren’t,” he said.

Several U.S. universities, including Fort Lewis College in Durango, Colorado, St. Edward’s University in Austin, Cornell University in New York and Rutgers University in New Jersey have announced they will require students to be vaccinated before the fall semester.

As discussions arise nationally and internationally about how a vaccine passport could benefit travel and other businesses, several state governors have opposed the idea. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott have issued executive orders against them.

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Any type of proof of vaccine requirement in the U.S. would be better handled at the federal level, Scrase said.

“When you think about how travel and passports, in general, are handled in America, they’re handled by the federal government,” he said.

However, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Wednesday the federal government will not create a federal vaccination database nor require people to obtain vaccination credentials out of concerns for privacy.

Scrase also expressed concern that a digital proof of vaccination for travel or other activities would leave some people out.

“We have to be really careful that we don’t enhance disparities and lack of equity. If you don’t have a phone, it’s going to be harder to show that app, it’s harder to register. We don’t want to set up anything that puts people in our state with less resources at a disadvantage,” he said.

Scrase pointed out the state’s Red to Green risk assessment system does have built-in protections for travelers in its restrictions on occupancy and mass gatherings at each of the risk levels and businesses are free to impose their own restrictions.

The state is examining its assessment system with an eye on “building a bridge” to the end of the pandemic, Scrase said.

“We are having some pretty extensive discussion about how do we build in vaccination rates to help move counties along or keep them in green or turquoise,” he said.

Health officials are working with the state’s Economic Recovery Council and Medical Advisory Team, the governor’s office and mayors on the revisions to the system.

One concern about the system is that with the Centers for Disease Control now recommending only people who are symptomatic for COVID-19 get tested, that would create a test positivity rate that does not truly reflect the disease risk in a county, Scrase said.

He said he hoped the state would have at least a sketch of what that will look like at the next COVID-19 update in two weeks.

In discussing travel, Secretary of Health Dr. Tracie Collins said the best advice is not to do so, especially by plane.

“I know people want to travel and I would still encourage you to only travel if it’s an emergency right now just because sitting on an airplane, you’re really in close quarters with folks who may not have been as diligent about best COVID practices,” she said.

For those who must travel by plane, Collins advised wearing a mask for the entire flight except to eat or drink and use hand sanitizer.

Scrase suggested anyone who travels should be aware of case rates in the location they are traveling to and also advised, in addition to a face mask, wearing a face shield on a flight to further protect against water vapor that might carry the virus from other passengers.

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/.