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NMDOH identifies first case of omicron variant

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The New Mexico Department of Health announced Monday that it has identified the first case of the COVID-19 omicron variant in the state.

Also on Monday, the state reported more than 2,500 new cases of COVID-19 and 12 deaths related to the virus.

A woman in Bernalillo County was identified Sunday as having the new variant, according to a press release from NMDOH. The woman reported recent travel to a state with reported cases of omicron. She was seen in an emergency room and discharged to her home, the press release said.

At least 31 states have verified the spread of the omicron variant, including the surrounding states of Texas, Colorado and Arizona, according the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The variant was first detected in Botswana and South Africa in mid-November. The World Health Organization named it a Variant of Concern (VOC) on Nov. 26, followed four days later by the CDC.

The first case was confirmed in the U.S. in California on Dec. 1.

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Variants of Concern are described by the CDC as those for which there is evidence of a higher transmissibility rate, more severe disease or there is reduced effectiveness in treatments or vaccines.

Whether or not omicron spreads more easily or causes more severe illness is not yet determined, according to the CDC. It has been confirmed in more than 60 countries and appears to be spreading faster than the currently dominant delta variant, NMDOH said.

NMDOH said the best way to protect against omicron or any variant of the virus is through vaccination. Anyone age 5 and older is eligible for the vaccine, which is provided at no cost. Those 16 and older who have completed the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine series at least six months ago or received the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine at least two months ago are eligible for booster shots.

Vaccine appointments can be made through the NMDOH vaccine website, vaccineNM.org, or with family health care providers. Appointments can also be scheduled by phone by calling 1-855-600-3453.

As of Monday, three-fourths of New Mexico adults have completed their initial vaccine series and 87.3% have had at least one dose.

In Chaves County, 24,915 adults, or 52.5% of the county’s population over the age of 18, have completed a vaccine series. That’s a 0.4% increase from last week. The number of Chaves County adults who have had at least one dose rose by just a slightly higher percentage, 0.7%, to 28,280 or 59.6% of the adult population.

Statewide, 93,935 or 56.3% of New Mexicans between the ages of 12 and 17 have completed the vaccine series and 65.5% or 109,253 have had at least one dose.

New Mexico children age 5 to 11 have seen the largest percentages of increase in vaccination rates. As of Monday, 19,130 have completed the vaccine series, an increase of 113% — more than 10,000 — from the previous week. That amounts to 10.1% of the age group’s population. The number who have received their first dose grew by 15% from last week to 41,883, or 22.2% of that age group.

In its daily case update for Saturday, Sunday and Monday, NMDOH reported 2,561 new cases of COVID-19 in all 33 counties and three correctional facilities.

Chaves County had 110 new cases over the three days, the most in southeast New Mexico. Eddy County had 69 cases, Curry County had 59, Lea County had 56, Roosevelt County had 28, Quay County had 20, Lincoln County had 14 and De Baca County had three.

Bernalillo County had the most cases in the state for the three days with 878, followed by Doña Ana County with 268, Sandoval County with 191, San Juan County with 170, Santa Fe County with 138 and Valencia County with 128.

The total number of cases in New Mexico since March 2020 is now 332,238, including 14,532 in Chaves County.

The health department announced 12 deaths related to COVID-19. Bernalillo, Doña Ana and San Juan counties each reported two deaths. Grant, Quay, Roosevelt, Santa Fe, Torrance and Valencia counties each reported one death.

Six of the deceased had been hospitalized and 10 had underlying health conditions. Their ages ranged from two men in their 30s from Doña Ana and Roosevelt counties to a man and a woman in their 90s from Bernalillo and Valencia counties.

The total number of deaths in the state related to COVID-19 is now 5,484, including 223 in Chaves County.

As of Monday, 610 people were hospitalized in New Mexico for COVID-19. That’s 81 less than reported Friday.

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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