Copyright © 2021 Roswell Daily Record
Copyright © 2021 Roswell Daily Record
State health officials did not say Wednesday if they expect New Mexico will reach the governor’s goal of fully opening from pandemic restrictions by the end of the month, but will assess the data Friday.
Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said on March 28 the state will drop its Red to Green COVID-19 risk assessment system and fully open from restrictions when 60% of the state’s population age 16 and older is fully vaccinated. At the time, that was projected to happen at the end of June.
State officials have since said that amount of people must have completed a vaccination series — two doses of the Moderna or Pfizer vaccines or one dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine — by Thursday in order for the state to reach the goal. An individual is considered fully vaccinated two weeks after completing the vaccinations, according to guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control.
In a livestreamed press conference Wednesday afternoon, Secretary of Health Dr. Tracie Collins and Secretary of Human Services Dr. David Scrase did not directly give answers to questions from the media about wether or not the state will reach the goal or what happens if it does not, but said they are diligently working to reach the goal.
“I’m not concerned but I am keeping my eye on the data,” Collins said.
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As of Wednesday afternoon, the New Mexico Department of Health’s vaccine dashboard showed 58.7% of New Mexicans have completed a vaccination series.
“We need 21,307 boosters or J&J shots to go before we hit 60%,” Collins said.
Asked what would happen if the state does not reach the goal, Scrase said, “It ain’t over ’til it’s over.” He said health officials and the governor will meet on Friday.
“We’ll all sit down on Friday after we get the Thursday data in and take a look at where we’re at, and I’m confident that we’ll end up doing the right thing for the people of New Mexico,” he said.
Asked why New Mexico has not opened despite every county being in the lowest-risk Turquoise Level and neighboring state Texas being open with only 47% of its population age 12 and older fully vaccinated, Scrase said the state is making its decisions based on what’s best for its people.
“Basically the reason is we’re not using Texas data to decide what’s best for New Mexicans,” he said.
“We have the highest social vulnerability index in America,” Scrase said, referring to a CDC ranking based on variables in U.S. Census data such as poverty levels, education, employment, age, disability, minority status, housing and transportation access to determine communities that will need the most support during hazardous events.
“Poverty among older people in New Mexico is No. 1, amongst all ages is No. 2 or 3. We have a lot of social vulnerability,” Scrase said.
“We’re doing what’s best for New Mexicans, we have since day one, we’ll continue to do that,” he said.
Scrase urged New Mexicans who have been vaccinated to help ensure the state has a record of it by checking at vaxviewnm.org. The New Mexico Department of Health website lets individuals check the status of their own or their children’s immunizations.
However, that database does not include those whose COVID-19 vaccinations were recorded through the federal government, which can include those who were vaccinated through Indian Health Services, a correctional facility or even a pharmaceutical chain, Scrase said.
“That vaccine may have been provided by the federal government. You’re in the federal system, not the state system,” Scrase said.
The state also does not have data on people who received vaccinations from outside New Mexico, Collins said.
“We have to keep our eye on how many people went out of state to get vaccinated, and we don’t have that data. We’re working on that currently,” she said.
Scrase said those who cannot find their data in the state system can email an image of their vaccination card, or if unable to take a picture of it, their legal name and date of birth to the Department of Health at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call the NMDOH help desk at 833-882-6454.
The state is offering incentives of cash and prizes for people to get their vaccinations, including $100 in cash or gift cards to those getting their vaccine through Thursday. Scrase said the incentives are working, showing data from the last week of vaccines given and scheduled.
The state announced the $100 incentive Sunday evening. Prior to Monday, the data Scrase presented showed 1,169 booster shots and 142 Johnson & Johnson shots were given per day in the state. Since Monday, those numbers increased to 1,523 and 793, or increases of 30% and 460%, respectively.
Booster shots that were scheduled over that same time period increased by 73% and schedules for Johnson & Johnson vaccines increased 843%, according to the data.
“We really think we have evidence this is working,” Scrase said, but he acknowledged it is a small data set.
The state is using $2.7 million from its allocation of the federal American Rescue Plan to fund the $100 incentives, Scrase said.
In its daily case update Wednesday, the health department announced 82 new cases of COVID-19 in the state and three related deaths. No new cases or deaths were reported in Chaves County.
Bernalillo County reported the most cases at 22 and San Juan County reported 11. Eighteen counties reported fewer than 10 cases each.
The state’s total number of cases is now 204,472 including 9,057 in Chaves County.
The deceased announced Wednesday were a man in his 50s from Santa Fe County, a woman in her 50s from Doña Ana County, both of whom had been hospitalized, and a woman in her 60s from Valencia County. Each had underlying health conditions.
The total number of deaths in the state is 4,305. Chaves County’s total is 169.
As of Wednesday, 98 people were hospitalized in New Mexico for COVID-19.
City/RISD reporter Juno Ogle can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 205, or email@example.com.
To keep up with local coverage of the coronavirus, go to rdrnews.com/category/news/covid-19-situation/.