Home News COVID-19 Situation Delta variant causing concern in New Mexico

Delta variant causing concern in New Mexico


Copyright © 2021 Roswell Daily Record

New Mexico has done a good job of holding back the spread of the coronavirus, but that could be changing as the Delta variant spreads, especially among the unvaccinated, a state health official said Wednesday.

“We are really in the middle of a pandemic amongst the unvaccinated, primarily,” Dr. David Scrase, secretary of the New Mexico Department of Human Services and acting health secretary, said in a livestreamed press conference Wednesday afternoon.

In New Mexico, 94% of hospitalizations and 98% of deaths are among the unvaccinated, Scrase said.

Case rates and hospitalizations have increased by a factor of four since July 1 both nationally and in New Mexico, with state levels close to what they were in March, Scrase said.

The Delta variant is now the dominant variant in the United States, and current estimates are that it comprises about 75% to 80% of the cases in New Mexico, he said.

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According to the state’s COVID-19 Variant of Case Report updated Tuesday, the Delta variant represented about 40% of the samples that were genetically sequenced for variants as of June 21. Only a small portion of COVID-19 tests are sequenced, however, and it takes about three to four weeks from the time a specimen is collected for the final report of the sequencing.

The latest report shows only one case involving the Delta variant in Chaves County that was first reported in the July 12 VOC report. There have been 11 cases with the Alpha variant and 58 with other variants here.

The Delta variant is of concern because it spreads three to five times more than previous variants, Scrase said.

“If you live in a household with someone with coronavirus, you have more than a 50% chance amongst the people there of getting it. That used to be 16%,” he said.

While the state is conducting fewer than 5,000 tests a day now, test positivity has been increasing, Scrase said.

“When we see the positivity rate rising, it’s generally an indication that there may be more cases out there than we know about. With the Delta variant, that’s three to five times a bigger problem,” he said.

In the COVID case outlook updated Wednesday on the New Mexico Department of Health’s COVID-19 dashboard, Chaves County’s positivity rate and average number of new daily cases saw a large upswing.

The test positivity rate for July 13 to 26 was 7.08%, up from 1.17% in the previous two-week assessment period. The average daily case rate increased to 8.4 cases per 100,000 people, up from 2 cases per day in the previous assessment.

Scrase encouraged anyone who is experiencing COVID-19 symptoms to get tested, no matter what their vaccination status is.

“If you have symptoms, get tested. It’s the only way we can contain this virus. I think we’ve gotten a little bit relaxed. The pandemic is not over,” he said.

Scrase also noted the state health order says to follow the U.S. Centers for Disease Control recommendations, and that includes mask wearing. The CDC on Tuesday recommended that everyone, even those who are vaccinated, should wear masks when indoors.

“When the CDC makes a change like they have just now in masking guidance, that automatically becomes part of our public health order,” Scrase said.

That could affect the the Public Education Department’s back-to-school guidance that it released on Monday. The PED mandated wearing masks for all students, staff and visitors in elementary schools and among those who are unvaccinated in the higher grade levels.

The PED posted on its Facebook page Tuesday that it is reviewing the new CDC recommendations but was not as yet changing its guidelines.

“Public health officials are working with school officials here in the state about schools, and we have word that there should be additional school guidance coming out from the CDC for other things than just masks,” Scrase said.

In its daily case update Wednesday, NMDOH reported 329 new cases of COVID-19 including 17 in Chaves County. The total number of cases in the state is now 209,684 including 9,182 in Chaves County.

Five deaths related to the virus were reported — a woman in her 70s from Bernalillo County; a man in his 50s and a woman and man in their 80s from Lea County; and a girl in her teens in Sandoval County.

The total number of deaths in the state is 4,407 including 172 in Chaves County.

As of Wednesday, 133 people were hospitalized in New Mexico for COVID-19.

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/.

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