The delta variant has begun to spread in New Mexico, but it has not yet fueled a rise in the state’s coronavirus case count, public health officials said Wednesday.

While New Mexico has seen an increase in infections tied to the delta variant over the past few weeks, the state has just 29 confirmed cases.

“We believe it’s growing more slowly here in New Mexico because of our high vaccination rate and the fact that folks are still observing social distancing and wearing masks,” Dr. David Scrase, the state’s Human Services Department secretary, said during an online news briefing.

New Mexico saw a similar delay with the alpha variant, which was detected in the state earlier this year but has begun to level off.

The delta variant spreads more rapidly than other mutations of the virus. In recent weeks, it has caused infections to spike in Missouri, Arkansas and other states where residents have resisted the vaccine.

It now accounts for 57.6 percent of new infections in the U.S. as well as 74.3 percent of recent cases in Western states, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“I still have a sense of urgency because I feel that the virus is a tough opponent,” Scrase said. “What other states are seeing with the rapid rise of the delta [variant] ... I think we have to stay vigilant, stay on our toes and really look for any new emerging trends that could affect the health of New Mexicans.”

As of Wednesday, 63.7 percent of eligible New Mexicans were fully vaccinated, one of the highest inoculation rates in the country. Around 48 percent of the U.S. population was fully vaccinated.

The state’s seven-day rolling average of new cases was 80 as of July 8, its lowest tally since the early days of the pandemic.

“As the vaccination rate in a county goes up, the cases in that county that we see every day goes down,” Scrase said.

State officials announced Wednesday that they would partner with local pharmacies to dispense COVID-19 vaccines to children 12 and older as part of a back-to-school vaccination push.

Students can go to a participating pharmacy without an appointment and get a free vaccine through Aug. 15.

“It’s critical that children get all their required and recommended immunizations well ahead of time, and that includes the COVID-19 vaccine,” Ryan Stewart, the state’s Public Education Department secretary, said in a statement.

Dr. Tracie Collins, the state’s Health Department secretary, said she expects federal regulators to expand the use of COVID-19 vaccines for children younger than 12 later this year.

“The studies are underway, and we’re looking at later in the fall to have more information and approval,” she said.

(3) comments

Daniel Werwath

I know three vaccinated people with positive results, two confirmed delta, within one degree of separation from my small workplace. This doesn’t seem accurate nor is it good public health messaging at all.

Mike Johnson

So you would say the vaccine doesn't work?

Daniel Werwath

You make a wrong turn at the Fox News comment section or something? The math on vaccine effectiveness is pretty clear just in case numbers alone. My point was that the vaccine isn’t foolproof. It still appears to keep people from getting seriously ill, but you can still catch it, and for people with children that’s something to be cautious of.

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