New Mexico’s downward trend in coronavirus cases following an early December peak appeared to reverse course this week, with the state reporting an alarming Thursday count of 2,209.

It was one of the state’s highest daily counts on record.

The spike, just ahead of New Year’s Eve celebrations, pushed the state’s total caseload to more than 350,000 since the pandemic arrived in March 2020.

The test positivity also rose significantly to 13.8 percent, and hospitalizations tied to COVID-19, which had been declining, jumped more than 11 percent in two days to 514 patients.

New Mexico’s death count continued to climb as well.

Among the 26 new coronavirus-related deaths reported Thursday by the state Department of Health were four Santa Fe County men ranging in age from their 50s to 80s. All had been hospitalized. The youngest man had no underlying health conditions, according to the report.

This week, there have been eight newly reported deaths in the county tied to COVID-19, a heavy toll amid the holidays. The state isn’t set to release numbers Friday.

The county now has seen 204 deaths from the virus, while the state has had 5,855.

The spike in coronavirus numbers likely is the result of holiday celebrations, Health Department spokeswoman Katy Diffendorfer wrote in an email Thursday.

“I can only speculate, but like the rest of the country, it’s reasonable to attribute some of these numbers to holiday gatherings and travel,” she wrote.

“We’re keeping a close eye on the case counts as the highly transmissible Omicron is here now ... and continuing to emphasize the importance of vaccination and boosters, as that remains the very best protection against severe illness and hospitalization from COVID-19 infection,” Diffendorfer added.

Health officials have said the fast-spreading delta variant remains the dominant strain in New Mexico, while the more highly contagious omicron is creating surges across the nation and worldwide. Only four cases of omicron had been confirmed in the state since the first was detected Dec. 12, the Health Department reported earlier this week.

But medical professionals said in a webcast Wednesday there are certainly more omicron cases in New Mexico that have not yet been confirmed by genomic sequencing, a time-consuming and labor-intensive laboratory testing process, with a reporting lag time of up to a month.

Lillian Montoya, president and CEO of Christus St. Vincent Regional Medical Center, said in the webcast, omicron “is going to spread rapidly, I anticipate, in the next week to month.”

Studies show omicron infections might produce milder symptoms than other variants.

COVID-19 patients in New Mexico with mild to moderate symptoms will soon have access to oral therapeutics, the Health Department announced Thursday.

The new antiviral medications, Molnupiravir and Paxlovid, expected to arrive this week, will supplement the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s recommended use of monoclonal antibody treatments for patients at high risk of severe illness. The medications must be started within five days of when a patient’s symptoms begin.

Supply of the oral medication is severely limited and only available to communities that lack access to monoclonal antibody treatments, the Health Department said in a statement.

Diffendorfer wrote she was not yet certain how much of the antiviral medicine the state will receive or which counties will be prioritized for supplies.

The Department of Health said in its statement the additional therapeutics should help reduce stress on New Mexico hospitals, many of which are operating under crisis standards of care. As supply of the oral treatment increases, more communities across the state will have access to them, the agency added.

Last week, the federal Food and Drug Administration granted emergency use authorization of Molnupiravir and Paxlovid, which reduce the virus’ ability to replicate.

Molnupiravir is only authorized for patients 18 and older and is not recommended for pregnant women.

Paxlovid is authorized for patients 12 and older.

Health officials have continued to urge New Mexicans to get vaccinated to reduce the risk of a severe infection and to slow the virus’s spread. Numbers have inched up, state data shows, with nearly 76 percent of adults fully vaccinated — including 34.7 percent who have received a booster shot — and 89 percent having received at least an initial dose. Over 57 percent of kids ages 12 to 17 are fully vaccinated and 16.2 percent of children 5 to 11 have their shots.

In Santa Fe County, 85.5 percent of residents are fully vaccinated and 99 percent have had at least one shot.

Still, the virus continues to spread throughout the county and the state.

New Mexico’s daily coronavirus case counts averaged over 1,700 earlier this month, and hospitalizations reached more than 700, straining short-staffed hospitals. The seven-day average number of cases then dropped to 824 on Monday, just before steep rises reported Wednesday and Thursday.

Santa Fe County saw 184 new cases Thursday, while Bernalillo County had 791; Doña Ana, 259; Chaves, 156; and Sandoval, 135.

A Santa Fe ZIP code, 87507, had the ninth-highest number of cases Thursday at 53.

Diffendorfer said the state’s next coronavirus count will be released Monday, following the holiday weekend.

New Mexico health officials will hold a virtual news conference Wednesday to provide an update on the state’s battle against the virus, she said.

(48) comments

Jim Klukkert

James Patrick- your arguments suffer from a Eurocentric perspective, more likely, from the perspective of white skin privilege. For example, on 22 December, you criticized the ineffectiveness of the vaccine campaign, arguing that an 85% vaccination rate ought to bring relief from the world wide Pandemic.

Such a position ignores the fact the COVID-19 Omicron variant likely originated in South Africa; that only 58.2% of the world’s population has received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine; and that only 8.5% of people in low-income countries have received at least one dose.

On 30 December, in your most coherent comment yet, you advance that “I'm employed but I get paid in mud bricks.”

If you were employed as an opinion writer, I would say you are overpaid for the quality of your output. Though you may disagree with my assessment, you cannot deny that whatever pay you actually earn, and the health care system that cares for you, is in far excess to the world’s poor, whom you statistically ignore in your positions.

Obviously we need an effective world wide vaccination program. It would seem prudent, and from the perspective of morally minded folks, Just, that the privileged people of the world pay for any part of this effort that cannot be covered from the lower-income economies of the world. It is in the obvious self-interest of everybody, that all peoples, even the poor, be vaccinated.

As the Europeans, which includes the U.S.A., systematically took [stole?] the natural resources as well as the labor of the rest of the world, it seems Just that the Euros foot the bulk of the tab for the health of everyone.

Mike Johnson

Jim, have you considered giving your property back to the original Native American owners who you stole it from, if you can find them, and giving all your remaining resources to WHO to help spread the vaccinations around the world, thus assuaging your severe case of white European guilt complex? You know, so you can sleep better knowing you are so much better than all us other white Europeans......[lol]

Jim Klukkert

Mike Johnson claims to be a scientist and a critical thinker, but deflects from my data driven argument [less than 6% of the population of poor countries vaccinated, a Global Problem requires a Global Solution] with the time worn canard, "Give all your property back to the Indians, Africans, Asians, what have you." Such a moronic call you make, Dr. Johnson, really original.

Mike, I have no problem sleeping at night, and I suffer not from any guilt whatsoever. Once again, you assume too much. While I do have some pride in a lifetime of struggle and work, I do not chart the worth of one individual against another. Such assessments are an exercise in vanity, and I know they are way above my pay grade.

Clearly from from your smug tone, it obviously is a talent you believe you have, or have earned, or somehow rightfully wield. That is a huge mistake, born of tremendous vanity. So proud the gods have made you, do you need to be reminded what comes next?

You are one sad case Mike, such a shame, such a disappointment.

Mike Johnson

Good to hear you have no white European guilt, and are not really concerned about, nor apparently believe (?) the claims, you wrote of: " As the Europeans, which includes the U.S.A., systematically took [stole?] the natural resources ...". Neither do I, and I am not a sanctimonious busybody who thinks I am better than anyone and certainly am not going to lecture anyone about how they should live, think, or act. Nor will I diagnose things like this: "...your arguments suffer from a Eurocentric perspective, more likely, from the perspective of white skin privilege...", that is far above my pay grade. I am sorry I assumed you may feel guilty about what your white European ancestors did, and glad to see you are not worried nor losing any sleep over that, excellent! And I have no idea what comes next, or even what you meant by such tripe, but whatever......

Jim Klukkert

I will attempt to reboot this discussion, Mike Johnson, without my own political perspective coloring what my assessment of what the continuing Covid crisis requires of the world.

The question you raised, Mike, was “Why is it we have so many more cases, hospitalizations, and deaths, with so many vaccinated and boosted people, than what we had before we had any vaccines?” James Patrick raised a similar question in his challenges to the efficacy of vaccines and masks.

My points are that 1) the new variant originated in the Third World, where relatively large populations remain unvaccinated; 2) these unvaccinated populations will continue to supply new variants to all of us; and 3) that those Third World populations require vaccination if we are to be rid of the Global Covid Pandemic.

We can disagree on many things, Mike, but do you not agree that it is in the interest of all people to put an end the the Global Covid Pandemic? And would not we all agree, Mike, that if poorer nations are not be able to fund vaccination programs, that we of relatively wealthy countries, should move to fund such an effort at a Global Solutions?

If you do not agree with that proposal, what is your alternative?

All the best to you, in the hopes of an invective free and productive discussion.

Mike Johnson

OK Jim, if we are to get back to the original question I asked, I would not necessarily disagree with your theory that all these problems are caused by a South African virus mutation. However, I must point out that today South Africa, the alleged epicenter of this variant, has long past its peak in cases, and deaths and hospitalizations did not spike there nearly to the extent they did in the US or even NM. So I am a bit unsure the new variant is the only cause of all this, and as you point out, few are vaccinated in South Africa, for instance, yet they have faired much better than we have with a much larger % vaccinated population. See this data:

Now, as to the rest of your assertion that the wealthy nations should fund vaccines to the poor nations, I think that is a good idea of course. It is the charitable thing to do (I don't buy we have an obligation from our past actions), but having been in 57 countries around the world to work, I know many of these countries are corrupt, inefficient, and have incompetent governments that will make such foreign charity very difficult to make work in a timely fashion. So, yes, let's do that, but we must not have any unrealistic expectations for any dramatic results anytime soon. In the meantime, we are suffering through a huge wave of new infections, hospitalizations, and deaths, so we need to act now to do something for Americans. And yes, in the New Year I hope for more logical and rational discussions and less political and cultural ones.

Mike Johnson

BTW Jim, here is an example off the problems I spoke of in third world countries:

mark Coble

I understand logic is not needed in any covid discussion. We just need to listen to our bettters and obey.

mark Coble

We need to use all available tools. Door to door mandatory vaccinations, mandatory double masking in home and out. Three month lockdown of all shops and stores, schools, etc. This will stop the spread of this very, very dangerous disease. We can beat this disease if everyone would comply and obey. Also the fifth booster should do the trick. It's all temporary, no real loss of freedoms.

Rick Ruggles

And the Oscar for most prolific -- Mike Johnson! No, I mean, Robert Fields!

Mike Johnson

Not even close if you count the number of words or keystrokes........

Robert Fields

Open comment to SFNM — I know you read the comments and refuse to post some as some of mine have been refused (likely this one too), but you are doing a dangerous disservice to your readers, the state, and Santa Fe by letting people post obvious covid misinformation here on your pages. There’s two posts here specifically questioning masking and vaccines when both are proven to work. There is no debate except among those who don’t know what they are talking about. Vaccines work. Masks work. So why do you keep letting these people post “information” that can not only do harm but can kill others?

This isn’t The Santa Facebook New Mexican. Even facebook, as sorry and full of misinformation they are, puts disclaimers on the kinds of posts you allow here. You have an obligation as a media outlet to publish factual, useable, valuable information. Even more, you have an obligation not to post trash.

Those of us who refute the posts have other lives. This isn’t our job. It’s a pain in my tuckus to have to research and counter the misinformation you allow to fester here. I’m sure others feel the same. Wallowing around in their filth is dirty and I/we have better things to do than do your job for you, SFNM.

How can you justify allowing dangerous and deadly misinformation here? Why should we continue to support a paper that harms the community by shirking its responsibilities?

There’s no way you can tell me there is value in allowing anti-vax and anti-mask posts here except for the traffic it creates and the ad revenue that creates. Other than that, you are materially helping to fill our hospitals and get people killed. It really is that simple.

Vet the posts or I’ll be canceling my subscription. Clean up your act. I doubt that matters to you but I have better things to do. Others no doubt feel the same way.

Or, hire John Block as editor, rename yourself Opinion Post, and fully embrace the dark side.

Sabine Strohem

+1 for removing dangerous lies about vax and masks.

Mike Johnson

"Vet the posts or I’ll be canceling my subscription." Promise? [lol][lol][lol]

Robert Fields

No surprise you would cheer that, Mike. Yes. I promise.

SFNM allowing misinformation, outright wrong and provable misinformation, misinformation that is crippling our health care system and literally killing citizens, and apparently only policing the posts for swear words and personal attacks, just doesn’t fit with me. If I wanted to support that kind of trash I’d subscribe to Pinion Post.

If SFNM is ok with leaving the comment section to might makes right about literally life and death issues and thinks it’s ok to tacitly endorse the anti-vax and anti-mask tropes that you yourself like to fling by hosting them on their pages, then I will have misjudged them, given them more credit than due, and it will be time to stop supporting them.

These are big concepts and I don’t expect you to understand, but this country has been undermined by misinformation of just the kind you like to spread. It’s killing people. It’s correct to say we have a problem with infection rates because there is a part of the population that refuses to vaccinate or wear masks and follow other guidance. It’s not correct to say masks and vaccines don’t work. Why don’t masks and vaccines fix these infection rates? Because we have a segment of the population that refuses to vaccinate or wear masks. How hard is that to understand?

But yeah, I fully intend to drop my subscription here if they continue to fail to address these issues. They can’t just let you guys post dangerous misinformation that if left unopposed can kill people if they believe you and decide not to vaccinate or mask when appropriate. There are millions of people who think the vaccines are full of microchips to track you, that ivermectin is a cure, or any of the rest of the toybox of bizarre thought that is so difficult to believe people actually fall for, but it all spread because those in charge let it. How have to die for all these “feels” like Niki Minaj’s cousin’s friend’s swollen reproductive organs and irresponsibly linking them to the vaccine?

This is the problem with social media. There are people who don’t have a clue what they are talking about pushing conspiracies and quack cures. That sorryantivaxxer website is a catalog of that. Those people earned their positions by spreading misinformation that is all but guaranteed to have killed other people.

If SFNM doesn’t at least disclaim posts like yours, they are even worse than facebook. Facebook at least warns when people post the kind of trash some post here. And no, I won’t support that.

Mike Johnson

Thank you, and good luck in your other endeavors when you leave.

Tamara Lichtenstein


Sabine Strohem

Thank you @Robert for your common sense posts. I'm going to hope that *part* of this increase is due to the requested increase in testing for the holiday parties. Time will tell, of course. A young, vaccinated friend just tested positive. She's fine. Barely felt more than symptoms of allergies. Any other day she would have just gone on with her day. #vaccinessavelives

James Patrick

Classic. My post should be removed simply for asking a question. You can't get more beta male than that.

Robert Fields

James, your post is dangerous utter nonsense and should be removed. Shame on SFNM for not removing it.

Vaccines and masks work. Period. Your “question” is on the same order of lunacy as asking if it is possible the moon is made of cheese.

If you were seriously asking the question, I’m answering it. No. It is not possible that masks and vaccines don’t work. They do work and there are mountains of statistics, facts, and figures to prove it.

“Do your own research” (tm)

Mike Johnson

[thumbup]Exactly Mr. Patrick, the left wing mantra, thou shalt not ever question left wing political opinions. That leads to cancelation in their culture.

James Patrick

Well, first it leads to really long replies. The classic tell of the midwit. THEN it leads to a call for banishment. The classic tell of the weak.

I may be wrong in my suspicions. I admit it. They may also be wrong. They will never admit it.

Mike Johnson

[thumbup]Honesty is not their strong suit......

Jim Klukkert

Ah yes James Patrick, those midwits who actually call on logic and verifiable facts in their longer posts than your snarky dismissals, they are the ones to blame, but for what? Actually desiring substantial political discourse. What a foolish impulse that arises amongst those who believe in our American experiment in Democracy!

Never going to happen with a narrow perspectived, shallow minded, intellectual midget of your sort. You simply do not have the intelligence nor huevos to reply the the very strong rebukes to your nonsense, with anything other than insult and invective.

Cheryl Odom

Robert Fields, you made my day. Thank you! I'm wondering how many anti-vax Republicans will be left to vote come November.

Robert Fields

Glad to help, Cheryl! I wish more would wise up but their self-removal from the gene pool is a bonus if they refuse.

Mike Johnson

What % of GOP voters are you hoping will die?

Russell Scanlon

It’s great when the same people who keep this pandemic active by not getting vaccinated or refusing to wear masks then blame the governor and the president when the pandemic doesn’t go away. It makes perfect sense—if you have the emotional maturity of a toddler.

Robert Fields

So much this, Russell. It’s painfully accurate.

Eileen Barrett

Masks work, vaccines work. Please stop misinformation.

Robert Fields


Mike Johnson

Amazing all these record numbers, over 500K new cases in the US today alone, and almost that many yesterday. Why is it we have so many more cases, hospitalizations, and deaths, with so many vaccinated and boosted people, than what we had before we had any vaccines?

Angel Ortiz

Gee, Mike....maybe all the non vaccinated and those who believe it's all a hoax. Perhaps all the tourists from Tejas and Arizona.....the variables are endless.

Margaret Eyler

Those evil tourists. If it weren’t for them we would be able to live off a bartering system and trade each other mud bricks for pieces of trash instead of being employed to earn horrible things like American Dollars and health insurance!

James Patrick

I'm employed but I get paid in mud bricks. Best of both worlds.

Angel Ortiz


Comment deleted.
Angel Ortiz and NO! Really? Too many variables with the non-vaccinated. Those who still don't want to wear masks or social distancing. Problem is our society is weak. Cannot sustain a challenge without complaining. If you choose not to get the vaccine or abide by mask wearing then stay home. Pretty simple.

Comment deleted.
Robert Fields

Masks are a physical barrier and are known to work. You can prove it yourself with a spray bottle and a mask. Spray something into the mask and most sticks to it and wets the mask. It’s not rocket science, James. I really cannot believe someone is doubting if masks work. Your premise is ludicrous.

Understanding that vaccines are working takes just a little more cognitive ability. The people filling hospital ICUs are mostly unvaccinated. You can even check their own tweets and instagram posts as they report the daily progress of their demises here:

But hard statistics are kept by the CDC and others. It varies a bit but 90% and up of the people taking up beds in the nation’s ICUs are unvaccinated.

Is it that impossible of a leap in understanding to say if 90-95% of the covid patients in ICUs are unvaccinated, that vaccination has kept the vaccinated out of the hospital?

The reason there are vaccinated in ICUs with covid is almost entirely due to comorbidities like immune compromise, other diseases that make them weak, etc.

But if 90-95% of the people in ICUs are the unvaccinated, in what world can you claim vaccinations don’t protect you?

It’s absolute nonsense and your post should be removed.

Robert Fields

Our high numbers are the direct result of efforts by anti-maskers, anti-vaxxers, and others who refuse to follow guidance that prevents infections and protects those who do.

And once again, Mike, all you have to do is look at NM’s covid map to see our predominantly republican counties are the ones with the low vaccination and high infection rates. Counties with high vaccination rates have low covid infection rates. Look at Los Alamos for an example of what high vaccination rates can do.

It’s pretty conclusive. I would have thought someone who claims an advanced degree would be able to see that for themselves instead of needing it repeatedly pointed out to them, but oh well.

Or are you fully aware that mask and vax mandates and guidance work and only here to sow discord and complain? Seeing how I’ve given you step by step how to verify the numbers yourself multiple times, I suspect you’re here just to complain while ignoring the real problem - vaccine and mask hesitancy.

It’s why hospital ICUs are uniquely full of anti-vaxxer, anti-masker republicans. Here’s a good discussion of covid’s partisan divide. You’re complaining that republicans are behaving badly but disingenuously trying to blame it on democrats. Shame on you.

Russell Scanlon


Jim Montevallo

Feel bad for you Mike. How many people you know got polio? Smallpox? Measles? Tentus?

To go to school and join polite society you got a battery of vaccine shots as a toddler, and so did everyone else you know, and as a direct, proven result we eradicated these devastating, deathly diseases. Likewise every surgical suite on earth is masked to the nines.

Why is this time around different? Why?

Let me guess what media, and social media, you get your programming from..........feel bad for you.

Mike Johnson

The left wing news media certainly don't help.......

Sabine Strohem

@mike: let's recall most of the nation was in lockdown most of last year. Kids weren't in school. Bars were closed. Restaurants were closed to indoor dining etc. And the average vaccinated person couldn't walk in to Walgreens and get a handful of tests before a party.

Mike Johnson

Yes, I know, and if you listen to some people, all that should never have been lifted and should be in place today to stop the huge increases in cases, hospitalizations, and deaths. But my question remains, are we better off now with all the new vaccines and treatments than we were a year ago? Hard to see any improvements.

Sabine Strohem

Simply considering the fact that we are 100% open shows that vaccines work. And literally no one in our government has proposed locking down again, to my knowledge. What do you propose? No masks, no vax requirements, no lockdowns, and then what?

Mike Johnson

Being 100% open, and living your life as normal are vastly different things, at least in my life. I am also not saying vaccines do not work, I have had 3 Fauci-ouchies and have had no issues, but then again, I am still a cranky shut-in, with most all my life events still canceled or on Zoom and still afraid to go out to eat anywhere, or to travel on any form of public transport, as I am sure many are also, because we have been lectured that vaccines are "not 100%". And I am not blaming Biden, nor do I think Trump would be better (he would obviously be much worse), but Biden did promise to end this during his first year, knowing full well 100% vaccinations would be impossible, and he still relied on politicians to "convince" people, and that has not been the case. So I am disappointed and depressed that the many bright and wonderful things that were promised a year ago have not happened. I suspect I am not alone in that feeling either.

Mike Johnson

And it now appears that Biden is setting up the states to take the blame for all this renewed carnage, and throwing them under the bus...."Well, President Joe Biden finally decided to say the quiet part out loud. After months of carrying on about a national plan and the need to follow guidelines and best practices, he finally threw his hands in the air and admitted it.

This pandemic will end when the states sort out how to end it.

"Look, there is no federal solution," Biden said Monday, according to a transcript of a conversation he had with a group of governors. "This gets solved at a state level.""

I wonder if that also includes his unconstitutional vaccine mandates for private enterprise too, which is sure to fail in SCOTUS......

Russell Scanlon

Sigh. Yes Mike. . Yes we are. Look at who is dying. Unvaccinated. This is a choice that adults make for their own safety and the safety of others. But go ahead and grind that “left wing media” axe if it amuses you.

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