As the coronavirus’s more infectious delta variant continues driving up caseloads and hospitalizations throughout New Mexico, increasing numbers of the ill and hospitalized are fully vaccinated people, state health officials said Wednesday.

Acting Health Secretary Dr. David Scrase said immunity to the virus begins to wane 5 ½ months after inoculation, which adds to the rise in so-called breakthrough infections. They now make up 28 percent of new COVID-19 cases and 23 percent of hospitalizations.

“Some grim news today — things continue to get worse,” Scrase said at an online news conference.

The state’s seven-day average daily case count Tuesday was 1,245, according to the New York Times, a number last seen in mid-January as a surge that began in October 2020 was on the decline. The seven-day average number of cases Nov. 9, 2020 — before New Mexico began rolling out COVID-19 vaccines — was 1,169, Times data shows. Two weeks later, the surge peaked with a record seven-day average of 2,671.

Though it remains unclear how high daily cases could rise this winter, Wednesday’s count of 1,337 is certain to push the weekly average higher. There were nearly 500 hospitalizations, and the state saw 13 more COVID-19 fatalities.

New cases have been particularly high in three counties — Bernalillo, Doña Ana and San Juan. But nearly all counties in New Mexico are tracking well above the state’s targets for caseloads and the rate of people testing positive.

“We’re swimming in a sea of red,” State Epidemiologist Christine Ross said, referring to New Mexico’s color code for a dangerously high rate of spread.

Cases among children and youth in Santa Fe Public Schools also are on the rise, with the virus infecting dozens in recent weeks and causing outbreaks in two small east-side schools. School and health officials hope a new immunization effort for kids ages 5 to 11 will stem the spread.

While officials at hospitals in Santa Fe said late last week the facilities weren’t yet overtaxed by a heavy load of COVID-19 patients, Scrase said many of the state’s hospitals are running well past capacity and are critically low on beds for emergency care, which means people with serious medical problems might have to be transferred from a strained hospital to one with available space.

“If you have a heart attack today, there might not be a bed for you,” he said.

The state Department of Health issued a public health order in October to allow rationed crisis care at overwhelmed hospitals amid the surge. An estimated 245 state and federal medical personnel have been sent to hospitals that have hit that tipping point, including in San Juan County.

Still, Scrase said there are no plans for the state to reinstate restrictions on business operations and group activities.

“Right now, we don’t have a secret list of things we plan to launch,” he said.



Health officials repeated familiar advice to combat the spread: Follow COVID-19 precautions, including the state’s mask mandate, and get a booster shot.

The main factors causing the surge are the delta variant spreading faster, the vaccine’s efficacy wearing off — especially among those who were first to receive the shots — and people becoming laxer with COVID-19 precautions, Scrase said.

Ross said people are gathering and traveling more, which, combined with the delta variant, is “a perfect storm.”

Scrase encouraged everyone who’s been fully immunized to register for the booster at the state Department of Health’s vaccine website.

He estimated 70 percent of adults in New Mexico are eligible:

  • People who are at least 65.
  • Adults with medical conditions.
  • Those who work with the public, increasing their potential exposure to the virus.

The Department of Health is working with federal officials to allow more people to get the boosters, Scrase added.

A return to business restrictions isn’t completely out of bounds, he said, noting health officials must be open to considering all possible measures, depending on how bad the outbreak becomes.

But Ross said people have grown weary of having their lives crimped and would be less willing to shelter in place and avoid group settings at this point in the pandemic. “Our risk-taking behavior is changing over time because we’re so far into this.”

Right now, 100 percent of coronavirus cases in the state are caused by the delta variant, she said. After the vaccine rollouts, the infection curve bent downward until July, when the variant struck, and has since rebounded.

“This is very, very concerning,” Ross said. “This is certainly not the direction we want to go in.”

The delta variant is two to four times more infectious than the coronavirus of a year ago, Scrase said.

He added: “Just ask yourself … am I being two to four times more careful this year?”

(53) comments

Joseph Duda

Yup - Let's hurry and line up for boosters so we all can get really sick! Start recognizing the obvious... Flu shot means: Get shot, get the flu.

William Walker

This denial of science without reliable evidence supporting a dubious assertion and its implicit rejection of medical expertise are major reasons why the Covid crisis persists in New Mexico.

Gary Krugger

I've heard Scrase claim that they'll consider dropping the mask mandate once New Mexico sees <210 cases per day. If we are averaging over 1,000 per day and 28% are among people who are fully vaccinated then it seems like a criteria impossible to meet even if 100% of people get vaccinated.

The current Public Health Order pushed through by Scrase and MLG is totally ineffective. Masks mandates absolutely do NOT work. We've had some kind of mask mandate in New Mexico for a year and a half. Never has there been a correlation to mask wearing and a reduction in cases. The only mask that is effective is an N95, but almost nobody wears them. Surgical masks have gaping holes in the sides, and do very little to protect the wearer. Cloth masks are laughable. Viruses are so much smaller than the gaps in the cloth that it's like using a tennis racket as a fly swatter. Plus, you are constantly touching your face to adjust them. Even if masks did work, most transmission isn't in public places, it's in private places. You're most likely to catch COVID from people you live with and others you socialize with. The public places you might pick up COVID like bars, restaurants, and gyms aren't made any safer with the order since you don't wear your mask while you eat or drink.

It would seem to me that the whole Public Health Order isn't even legal to begin with. I'm not a lawyer, but my understanding is that there needs to be an actual emergency for such an order to be valid. How can it be an emergency when we have vaccines? It's not like they don't work or that they aren't available. The argument that kids weren't eligible doesn't really work anymore, and it never really did since they are such low risk.

Did you know the CDC actually has published guidance on what strategies local decision-makers should implement and which factors they should use to determine them? https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/70/wr/mm7030e2.htm. It's pretty obvious that Scrase and MLG have either never read that, or have completely ignored it. If you've recovered from COVID or got your shots, the pandemic is over for you. You've done your part already to protect yourself and the community by having immunity. You should be free to live your life however you choose. We are not wearing masks forever. These stupid mandates go away when we all say NO to them.

Aaron van de Sande

How are they surviving in Texas and Arizona without them?

Rachel Thompson

I am younger than 65 but qualify for a booster based on medical status. I could not figure out how to make an appointment online for a booster in Santa Fe so I called DOH. The first appointment I was able to get was in mid December, in Eldorado. Something seems strange about this, that there would be such a bottleneck.

Emily Hartigan

Gosh, Rachel, there are so many walk-in places like the Farmers Market ... I don't get it.

Khal Spencer

Boosters should be DOH's top priorities.

Mike Johnson

[thumbup][thumbup][thumbup]

Emily Hartigan

I'm 75 and blood type A, so I'm concerned about my own health. But even more, I care about so many friends who are much more fragile -- and if I go out and get infectious/infected, I could help kill them.

It's a no-brainer. Amazingly minimal side-effects of the jab, three-quarters of a million dead from non-jab. Had everyone gotten shots when available, hundreds of thousands would still be alive. How primitive, to insist on your delusional sense of self. How tragic.

Robert Fields

[thumbup][thumbup][thumbup]

Douglas Dasher

If we are going to compare ranking lets looks at totals to date rather than just recent fluctuations.

Rate of U.S. coronavirus (COVID-19) cases as of November 11, 2021, by state (Total)

North Dakota 20,133 cases/100K Rank 1 out of 52 State’s & territories.

New Mexico 13,762 cases/100K Rank 31 out of 52 State’s & territories.

Puerto Rico 5,838 cases/100K.

https://www.statista.com/statistics/1109004/coronavirus-covid19-cases-rate-us-americans-by-state/

If we are going to compare ranking lets looks at totals to date rather than just recent fluctuations.

Rate of U.S. coronavirus (COVID-19) cases as of November 11, 2021, by state (Total)

North Dakota 20,133 cases/100K Rank 1 out of 52 State’s & territories.

New Mexico 13,762 cases/100K Rank 31 out of 52 State’s & territories.

Puerto Rico 5,838 cases/100K.

https://www.statista.com/statistics/1109004/coronavirus-covid19-cases-rate-us-americans-by-state/

Aaron van de Sande

According to Statistica, per capita covid deaths in New Mexico is about the same as Texas and Florida. So what is the point of all these hoops we have been jumping through?

Riley Stephens

What constitutes the end of Covid mandates? What is an acceptable level of cases and deaths? Do we expect to get to Zero? We've never achieved that with the flu. If I'm calculating this correctly, the current 7 day average of New Mexico cases represents .0006 of the state population. I assume this will ebb and flow somewhat over time and Covid will never leave us but the goal, as I recall, was declining deaths and hospitalizations. We have achieved this. And with Pfizer's new anti-viral pill we stand to further limit death and hospitalization even among those who choose to not vaccinate.

Mike Johnson

Good questions and points. But like all things with this pandemic in America, all these things are political decisions. And the politicians who are in charge love power and control, so we can just bring a lunch and settle in for a long lockdown here.

Jen Hollander

I am confused - have we achieved declining hospitalizations? Didn’t hospitals in Albuquerque just enact crisis standards of care? And when was the Pfizer anti-viral pill approved by the FDA so that it is available for use? I must have missed that. Oh wait, they haven’t and it could still be months until it is available to the general public.

Mike Johnson

According to the New York Times, NM is the worst in the nation for hospitalizations, and case rates per capita.

https://www.nytimes.com/2021/11/10/us/covid-new-mexico.html

Kyle WILSON

The hospitals enact emergency standards based on staffing not number of patients its the care ratio. You could have only 10 patients and 2 nurses and could "declare an emergency" to get extra funds for staffing

Janine Pearson

Well said

Lynn Hansz

These particular shots are NOT true vaccinations at all. They are experimental and there has not been enough time to access the long term plusses and minuses of them. In the process, there has been a re-defination of the word vaccination and that is not helpful.

Laurie Buffer

[thumbup]

Carl Friedrichs

Everyone is entitled to an opinion, but the Pfizer vaccine is FDA approved. Do you have any medical qualifications to back your opinions?

Jerry Appel

Increasing case counts were expected once school and businesses re-opened. There have been outbreaks in schools all over the country. The vaccine is not a magic bullet, cure all. All vaccines reduce, usually dramatically, the number of deaths, severe cases, and infections by the disease they are designed to combat. These vaccines are no different. What is different is the lack of uptake and the fatality rate which is bolstering the reduced uptake. SARS CoV-2 is not as fatal as all the other diseases our children are routinely vaccinated for: polio, smallpox, diptheria, measles, mumps, rubella, and tetanus. We don't even inoculate anymore for tuberculosis, yellow fever, and others because they have been eliminated in civilization except in laboratories. I fully expect the infection rate to climb until most children are vaccinated and adults with school-age children are catching it from these children. By this time next year most school-age children will be vaccinated for SARS CoV-2 because it will be mandated just like all the others to attend school.

Dennis McQuillan

Here is an interactive graph for Covid infection rates, deaths, vaccination status and age. https://covid.cdc.gov/covid-data-tracker/#rates-by-vaccine-status

Any way you look at the data, there is no doubt that all 3 vaccines available in the U.S. have reduced new infections and deaths overall and particularly among older folks. With regard to boosters the medical experts, who all want to reduce Covid suffering and death, have to use data that are not always complete and of a long enough term. Differing views and dissent among the experts is expected and is a good thing in this context.

Whether you are deciding to get your first vaccination, or to get a booster, read the journal abstracts (many provide open access to full papers) if you are so inclined, talk to your medical doctor, and make your informed decision.

Comment deleted.
Robert Fields

Even as vaccine effectiveness fades, Nancy, it still reduces the chances of getting covid, of having severe symptoms, and the odds of dying.

We knew the effectiveness would fade but it isn’t a light switch. Vaccinated people have been able to do more with more confidence over this whole time. And during this time, do you know who was being hospitalized and who was dying at rates many times those who got the vaccine? The unvaccinated.

Nancy, if you just look at that - at who has been hospitalized and dying - it’s clear that it really does matter if you are vaccinated or not. Big time.

Khal Spencer

Today's NY Times.

https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2021/11/11/science/vaccine-waning-immunity.html

Russell Scanlon

I don’t know why it would be in the interest of the CDC, NMDOH or local authorities to sabotage or undermine the vaccine rollout or to prolong the agony of COVID. It is in EVERYONE’S interest to end this pandemic. I accept that people in positions of authority may make mistakes under pressure—because I do. That doesn’t imply malevolence. Y’all make mistakes too, don’t you? (I realize that many of us on this page have invested a lot in our own infallibility.)

I don’t believe that scientists and doctors around the world are in a conspiracy to take away our “freedoms” and advance socialism. But if they recommend restrictions again, I would trust them over some disgruntled commentator or athlete.

I don’t think people really grasp that there are a lot of unknowns in epidemiology, as new viruses emerge. This is a novel and fluid situation that we are living in. We are in effect, all test subjects in this unprecedented situation. Facts will evolve and change. Doctors and scientists will evaluate evidence and data and we will (hopefully) adapt. What we do know is that masks are still effective to prevent transmission and people who are fully vaxxed are still more protected, contrary to some of the nonsense you may be hearing (or repeating).

And I sincerely believe that there are still plenty of good people in government, health agencies, labs, etc. that want to help and know a heck of a lot more about this than someone who reads the SF New Mexican once in awhile.

And finally, I believe we would all probably be much better off today if a sizable minority of people in this country hadn’t decided to make a humanitarian disaster into a useless and delusional political statement. Maybe if we stopped hating the “government” on reflex it would help. The “government” is literally you and me, our neighbors, our relatives, our closest friends. . .and there is absolutely no other entity at this point that can deal with this problem.

Mike Johnson

Mr. Scanlon opines: "The “government” is literally you and me, our neighbors, our relatives, our closest friends." Seriously? I don't even know one person who works in government, let alone the ruling political elites that really run all things, called politicians. People in the US equate government to these ruling elites, not the typical government employee. So when politicians make all the rules, issue the edicts, orders, and lockdowns, people associate government to these kind of people. And it is not a surprise most people in America do not trust them. Some data: "Public trust in government remains low. Only about one-quarter of Americans say they can trust the government in Washington to do what is right “just about always” (2%) or “most of the time” (22%). NM government is no different, IMO:

https://www.pewresearch.org/politics/2021/05/17/public-trust-in-government-1958-2021/

Khal Spencer

Well, Mike, I think you and Russell both have a point.

Government is supposed to be us, but when I send a letter or email to my legislators and get nada in return, except downloading that Secretary of State form that shows me which lobbyists butter their bread, that's not helpful. Plus, Her Arrogance sometimes makes me want to forget that I am a registered D. I prefer a chief executive with the kind of humility I saw in Jimmy Carter, for whatever his other faults.

But the bottom line is we all do have to cooperate. Even with those we disagree. Too much of the time the people on the right and left are rowing this boat in opposite directions and the bleeping thing just spins in circles as the world passes us by.

Mike Johnson

[thumbup]

Russell Scanlon

The people on the “Left” are not and have never been the ones obstructing mask mandates, vaccine requirements etc. That honor belongs to the shards of what was once a respected intellectual movement known as “Conservatism”. (Nor is it the “Snowflakes” who are horrified if their precious children learn about American slavery and racism in schools.)

I agree that there is extremism on both sides—but that is not really the issue with the COVID problem.

Khal Spencer

New Mexicans on the "Left" have not been rejecting vaccinations, masks, etc. That said, there has been a tendency of many on the Left to slavishly fall in line behind MLG's mandates without consideration of other issues with mandates, the wisdom of endlessly chained states of emergency, and the overall effects of lockdowns, such as economic, mental health, kid's education.

Sure, the Right has been (IMHO) a laughingstock in suggesting that there is maleficent motive behind vaccination (there is not) or that mandates are unconstitutional (most have held up in court) or other issues. But even well stated criticism of the government gets wrapped in "us vs. them" polarization.

Frankly, I think this virus is with us for the long haul. At some point, we need to shut off the states of emergency and count on people dealing with this new virus as adults, just as we do with other viruses. Vaccinations, esp. in schools, etc, may be mandatory for the long haul as they have been for other diseases. If we truly want to "get over it" we need to come together, as the Beatles might say, rather than constantly throw rotten food at each other.

Bob Res

Russel, actually it WAS people on the “Left” that were the ones obstructing vaccines. To be specific, both President Biden and VP Harris both set a tone demanding the vaccines during the election cycle, and their comments have been specifically mentioned by many who have avoided the vaccines.

Additionally, instead of partisan folklore abusing “Conservatism”, please look closer at the real non- vaccinated data and look at the groupings. You will find that POC lag well behind, and it would be hard to make the valid case that they are primarily followers of “conservatism”.

—— Bob Res

Mike Johnson

Indeed, thank you Mr. Res.

Russell Scanlon

Gee I don’t know Mike—I have known people who work for the State Dept., the EPA, FEMA. . . Heck I even considered my former US Congressman to be a friend and I was always delighted to talk with him at Town Halls, 4th of July parades, etc.

Maybe you should broaden your perspective.

Mike Johnson

We obviously have run in very different societies. I have testified numerous times in Congress, and before state legislative bodies, and in 57 different foreign countries where the American Embassy was a common meeting place, and I never saw many I would even want as friends among these politicians and appointees.

Robert Fields

“I never saw many I would even want as friends among these politicians and appointees.”

I would offer that it’s just a matter of perspective, Mike. After reading so many of your posts here, they might not want you as a friend either.

Khal Spencer

[thumbup][thumbup]

Especially that last paragraph.

I differ with some on the balance of preventing infection transmission vs. economic losses, mental health, and keeping schools open. That said, no one is infallible and we elect people to do good as well as make mistakes.

Thing is, if masks are important, I don't know why the Governor and her public health people are not out on every street corner handing out KN-95's and making sure people know how to wear them. Some of what I see on people's faces is more comedy than effective. And as I said earlier, anyone in the state coming up on six months should be able to get a booster. As a pair of old codgers, we were able to sign right up, but that should go to anyone as long as doses are available.

Mike Johnson

Khal, I do agree with Mr. Scanlon's assertion here: "And finally, I believe we would all probably be much better off today if a sizable minority of people in this country hadn’t decided to make a humanitarian disaster into a useless and delusional political statement." I do wonder if Mr. Scanlon would blame Trump alone for all this, but IMO Trump, MLG, and most every other politician and political operative appointee is responsible for turning this into all politics given the mood and attitude of the people about them. When they got up and pontificated on virology, immunology, etc., they were not seen as honest brokers and objective, scientific experts, since they weren't. They were seen as what they are, arrogant partisan political opportunists with so much hubris they wanted to be seen as the "saviors" of the citizenry and "leaders", and thus wanted to be in charge of all things, the people knew better. When politicians issue rules, orders, edicts, etc., they are not seen as anything but partisan politicians. Just think what could have been if nonpartisan, neutral scientific and medical experts were in charge of messaging and policy. But the politician would not allow that, they had to be the center of attention and source of all power. That was a major error, IMO.

Khal Spencer

For example, Andrew Cuomo.

Russell Scanlon

Dr. Fauci, the leading expert in this area, was openly sabotaged by Trump because the truth was bad for his poll numbers. So. . . Yeah.

Mike Johnson

Dr. Fauci is a political appointee, not the kind of person I was talking about at all.

Khal Spencer

But Fauci is not just *any" political appointee.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anthony_Fauci

Mike Johnson

I agree Khal, that Dr. Fauci is imminently qualified, as an academic with the massive list of research publications, to be the expert. The problem is that he has been associated with politicians and government bureaucracy for so many years, most people would not view him as unbiased, objective, and apolitical. I think a more neutral, honest broker well known in academia and science, not government bureaucracy, would have been a better spokesperson to disassociate this from politics and government. A person like Dr. Ashish Jha, or other academics who are Deans of large, respected university public health centers would have had more credibility with the public at large, like me.

Aaron van de Sande

Remember when Sweden was a pariah for forgoing lockdowns and mask mandates? They are now 2nd lowest in Europe. And their total per capita death rate is very low. https://www.statista.com/statistics/1139048/coronavirus-case-rates-in-the-past-7-days-in-europe-by-country/

Douglas Dasher

COVID vaccine immunity is waning — how much does that matter?

“Real-world data from diagnostic-testing records and hospital databases suggest that this might be the case. In Israel, for example, elderly people who got their shots at the beginning of the year seemed to have almost double the risk of severe illness during a July outbreak compared with similar individuals who were immunized more recently7. As researchers reported this week, older individuals given a third dose of vaccine were less likely to become infected and much less likely to develop severe disease than those who had not received the boosters8.”

https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-021-02532-4

Just one view on the science. Newspaper comment sections though are not the place to discuss science.

Dottie Butler

It's a matter of life or death that all of us get vaccinated and now keep up with getting booster shots.

The single most significant reason that we still have a pandemic is because some people have chosen not to get vaccinated.

This pandemic is still not over.

You could still die of Covid. You could pass it on to someone else and they could die.

You could suffer permanent life-altering medical consequences even if you survive a bout with Covid.

Get vaccinated. Get the booster shot. It's not just your life and health that's at stake.

Aaron van de Sande

Do you know aside from COVID a 50YO male has a .5% chance of dying in a year? What should we do about that?

https://www.statista.com/statistics/241572/death-rate-by-age-and-sex-in-the-us/

Mike Johnson

And NM is in its familiar last place in America again.....https://www.nytimes.com/2021/11/10/us/covid-new-mexico.html

Mike Johnson

So Scrase says the vaccine is getting too weak to protect the vaccinated to the tune of over 28% ineffective, just 6-8 months after full vaccination? Many scientists disagree with that. I wonder if he has any data that shows the vaccine ineffectiveness time lines by age and time since the second shot, apparently the CDC and others are not aware of it, or is it just more shoddy, inaccurate information from him.......: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/09/13/health/covid-vaccine-booster-lancet.html

Robert Fields

28% ineffective sounds like “oh my!” territory until one realizes 28% ineffective = 72% effective which is still better than flu shots. It’s even more effective than a single shot of J&J (66.3% effective).

Mike, you really need to stop trowing scat at the wall to see what sticks. You wonder, apparently, or is it, etc. What in your post isn’t conjecture or trying to cast this administration’s covid efforts in the worst way possible?

There is a lot of data available at the CDC. If the data you want isn’t already available, you can always sift the uncut data yourself. Some of that data may not be available, though. There are a number of states with republican governors who refuse to report their data so there could be other biases. There are, however, statisticians on staff at the CDC who make the most sense out of the available data.

From the beginning there were statements by CDC officials, virologists, and others who would know that vaccine effectiveness fades over time. As more time has passed, the effectiveness is indeed decreasing. As to exactly how much effectiveness is dropping and quoting 28%, I’m sure there are lots of qualifiers on that kind of number. Why not ask Scrase himself instead of helplessly bleating here?

Comment deleted.
Sabine Strohem

@Nancy: NO! Good Lord that's not what it says at all.

Khal Spencer

We both got our boosters. They should be available to everyone, not just those in those risk categories. And to Hades with sheltering in place again. This isn't Vicksburg during the Civil War.

Comment deleted.
Russell Scanlon

Read it again.

Welcome to the discussion.

Thank you for joining the conversation on Santafenewmexican.com. Please familiarize yourself with the community guidelines. Avoid personal attacks: Lively, vigorous conversation is welcomed and encouraged, insults, name-calling and other personal attacks are not. No commercial peddling: Promotions of commercial goods and services are inappropriate to the purposes of this forum and can be removed. Respect copyrights: Post citations to sources appropriate to support your arguments, but refrain from posting entire copyrighted pieces. Be yourself: Accounts suspected of using fake identities can be removed from the forum.