New Mexico’s cooling northwestern hot spot is pushing the state’s overall COVID-19 infection rate down, a welcome reversal from two weeks ago when a spike caused health officials to consider resuming tougher restrictions.
The state’s transmission rate is 0.93, meaning 100 people would spread the novel coronavirus, which causes COVID-19, to 93 people.
Having the infection rate fall below 1 is significant because that leads to a steady decrease in new cases if it stays under that threshold, Human Services Secretary David Scrase said.
Scrase emphasized a downward trend does not reflect a change in the virus itself but of the precautions people are taking, such as wearing masks and social distancing. “There’s this general belief amongst the people in New Mexico that things are getting better and now we can all get back to work,” he said. “The virus is going to be the same and we’re gonna be just as susceptible to it until we’re all vaccinated. Remember that, please.”
The state considered reinstating COVID-19 restrictions two weeks ago when cases increased and critical-care beds filled beyond 100 percent, but the surge has waned, Scrase said.
The latest count shows hospitals have 276 of those beds filled, which is 46 above the baseline, or what’s deemed normal full capacity, he said. That’s still well below 460, the ceiling under which COVID-19 patients don’t have to share ventilators.
The state has changed its target transmission rate to 1.05 from 1.15, Scrase said, explaining that it had to do with recalculations.
Positive trends must continue before the state moves to the next phase of lifting restrictions, Scrase said.
The northwest region’s average rate of new cases over 10 days has dropped to 0.66, compared with 1.24 in the northeast, which includes Santa Fe County.
That’s good news for McKinley and San Juan counties, where a severe outbreak was ravaging the Navajo Nation. This region’s ebb is nudging the state’s overall rate down, Scrase said.
The Santa Fe area’s rate seems stubbornly high because the number of cases there are low overall and will show less of a day-to-day change, he said.
Scrase said the state has received 3,109 vials of the antiviral drug remdesivir, enough to treat 350 to 400 patients.
A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine showed that a group of COVID-19 patients who took remdesivir recovered in 11 days compared to 15 days for those who didn’t receive the drug, Scrase said.
More importantly, there’s almost a one-third reduction in mortality rate, Scrase said.
“It works,” he said.