State health officials foresee coronavirus cases falling sharply in the coming weeks, quelling the bleak surge mostly among New Mexico’s unvaccinated residents that had slowed progress in ending an 18-month pandemic.

The state’s overall high vaccination rate is paying off, though New Mexicans can expect to see packed hospitals for another week and an elevated death toll for another month before a marked drop-off, the state’s health chief said Wednesday.

Everyone at the state Department of Health is willing to say New Mexico is “on the downslope of this pandemic,” said Dr. David Scrase, human services secretary and acting health secretary, in a virtual news conference.

“We predicted it about three weeks ago. We leveled off about two weeks ago, and now we’re finally heading into the downward trend,” Scrase said.

As of Wednesday, 79 percent of residents 18 and older have received at least one dose, and 69 percent have completed their series of shots, according to the state’s vaccine dashboard.

But that doesn’t mean people should discard their face coverings, Scrase said.

Until caseloads drop and stay down, the state will keep the indoor mask mandate, he said, referring to the rule the governor imposed last month and extended Wednesday to Oct. 15.

Scrase pointed to a state map with all but two counties awash in red, the color code denoting a high transmission rate based on positive tests and cases per 100,000 people.

The transmission rate would have to drop to yellow, a moderate level, before health officials would consider easing mask requirements, Scrase said.

Vaccines, masks and social distancing are an effective combination in reducing spread, he said, adding the state wants to use all available tools to combat the more infectious delta variant.

The expected downturn in the outbreak is good news for schools, which will continue with in-person classroom learning with no change anticipated, state Public Education Secretary-designate Kurt Steinhaus said.

“We are in a full-court press to keep in-person learning going and to keep schools safe,” Steinhaus said. “And so we have not had a lot of discussion about any statewide transition to remote. We hope we don’t have to do that. In-person learning just works better.”

To avoid spread within schools, staff must either be vaccinated or take weekly tests. A $63 million federal grant is also helping schools boost their testing.

Data shows infections among school personnel and students statewide fell by 37 percent last week from the previous week. Steinhaus said they will study that dramatic decrease closer to ensure it’s a trend and not a blip.

Scrase said there’s talk of the Pfizer vaccine possibly being approved for children ages 5 to 11 by November, but that still is not certain.

A sizable portion of unvaccinated residents live in impoverished or remote areas, known as socially vulnerable communities because of the increased challenges residents face in obtaining adequate medical care, said Laura Parajon, a Health Department deputy secretary.

These residents can lack transportation and access to medical personnel and facilities, which often aren’t available in poorer areas, Parajon said.

Scrase displayed a graph, based on census data, showing communities with 40 percent of residents living below the poverty line had twice the COVID-19 infections of those with 5 percent of residents living in poverty.

Ethnic populations, especially Hispanic and Black communities, have more unvaccinated people and in turn more cases, Parajon said. Their vaccine refusal often stems from historic distrust of government health agencies, she added.

The state is making an effort to overcome the socioeconomic and ethnic barriers to get as many people inoculated as possible, she said.

Scrase noted two California counties have declared misinformation about vaccines and COVID-19 precautions a public health crisis. He said he agreed with them.

The delta variant remains the dominant strain in New Mexico, accounting for nearly all current cases, Scrase said, adding those who aren’t immunized are four times more likely to be infected and 7.5 times more apt to be hospitalized with serious symptoms.

And counties with higher vaccination rates have far less spread, he said, displaying a graphic illustrating counties’ outbreaks versus inoculations.

“The more people you can get vaccinated in a community, there’s a dramatically lower number of cases that correlate with that,” he said.

(22) comments

Bob Res

So…. If true, why the hlle did the Gov already extend the mask mandate for four weeks??? I guess science doesn’t matter anymore.

Also, whatever happened to Cty-by-Cty measurements, and the 3% positivity rate?

Robert Fields

Uh, because we still have lots of infected people among us.

If you want to see the NM county maps and stats, just click the blue Coronavirus tab at the top of the page.

This whole thing with covid is a fluid and changing situation. It’s still changing. Officials have tried to be as restrictive as they needed to be to prevent massive spread while inconveniencing citizens as much as possible. If you want one single directive that doesn’t change, you’ll get the most restrictive directives and mandates.

It’s confusing to some that the circumstances around the pandemic keep changing but that’s just reality. We started with a new virus that nobody had antibodies for, we had no good treatments, etc. It overwhelmed hospitals just by sheer numbers. Over time we got some good treatments and vaccines and things were looking up until early summer. Mask requirements were relaxed and life started returning to normal. That’s when delta hit.

Between early June and now, delta went from being rare to almost entirely dominant. Delta is more infectious and deadly and raced through unvaccinated populations. It affects and kills children much more than previous variants. Even vaccinated who have co-morbidities are in danger again. Children under 12 can’t yet be vaccinated and they are also now in danger.

Bob, we are fighting a living thing that like all living things, has mechanisms to survive. It isn’t static. It can change. It can still change. It could get even more deadly and more infectious. The rules could easily change again.

It’s logical to fight it appropriately. Since everything about covid and fighting covid changes, it doesn’t make sense to complain that our response changes. Please try to keep up.

Robert Fields

… while inconveniencing citizens as little as possible

The message editing here could benefit from some changes and improvements…

mark Coble

Risk to healthy people under 75? Of covid deaths in NM how many were already hospitalized with underlying co morbidities? Risk of death to 0-19 year olds? Who profits from covid? How many boosters will you need? What is efficacy of vaccine if you need booster shot in less than a year? DON' T ask, just obey your leaders, they know best. Just remember your freedom is dangerous and secondary to having the state control your life. Has government grown under covid while small businesses have been killed off? Didn't I tell you not to ask?!

Robert Fields

Oh mark, you don’t understand most of your questions are either easily answered with a web search, or aren’t legitimate questions the way you pose them.

Profiteering? A number of politicians (or their wives) and far right influencers invested in the companies that make ivermectin and hydroxychloroquine in hopes of cashing in while promoting the quack cures.

How many boosters? Depends on how long covid sticks around. With the far right welcoming covid into their homes and places of business, we may never get it under control and you may need boosters every year just like flu shots.

The efficacy question doesn’t make sense. Not that you shouldn’t ask. You should learn how to ask better covid questions, though.

The vaccine efficacy changes over time so you have to specify the time period you are curious about. When you first get the shots, it’s zero. Protection rapidly increases over the weeks after you get your shots but then fades over time. The vaccines are great for a while and then you need a booster - just like many other vaccines. This isn’t anything new. Less than a year is only a surprise because you guys left the door open for the delta variant.

It was actually a dice roll that existing vaccines would have much efficacy with delta and we got lucky. I would bet that if it weren’t for delta, current vaccines might have been for a full year or longer. Delta is new, is a bit more resistant, and is more deadly to younger people than original covid was.

It’s not your freedom that’s dangerous. It’s your behavior. People who refuse to vaccinate are why there need to be mask mandates. We don’t know your vaccination status. Many anti-vaxxers are forging vaccine documents. So if we can’t even trust you to be honest about your status, we have to do the next best thing and require you to mask - something we can see. Without a vaccine and when infected, people turn into massive covid factories and you can infect and kill other people - your family, coworkers, strangers unfortunate enough to wander into your viral cloud.

The state is not trying to control your life. The state is trying to protect the lives and health of its citizens. If you don’t want to vaccinate or mask, stay away from others. You have a choice. But the drumbeat from the right is you don’t want to take precautions to protect others and you insist on occupying the same spaces. It’s because covid infected can kill others that these rules are in place and the attitudes anti-vaxxers and anti-maskers exhibit are why these things need to be mandated.

The state isn’t trying to control your life. It’s trying to save the lives of others in the community you guys don’t seem to give one whiff about.

Mike Johnson

"A sizable portion of unvaccinated residents live in impoverished or remote areas,.." And: "Ethnic populations, especially Hispanic and Black communities, have more unvaccinated people and in turn more cases, Parajon said." And we have been led to believe, by the political operatives, that it is the conservative Trumpites who are the ones who are not vaccinated, interesting.......

John Cook

Actually, what she said was: "A sizable portion of unvaccinated residents live in impoverished or remote areas, known as socially vulnerable communities because of the increased challenges residents face in obtaining adequate medical care, said Laura Parajon, a Health Department deputy secretary.

These residents can lack transportation and access to medical personnel and facilities, which often aren’t available in poorer areas, Parajon said.

This 'sizeable portion' does not change, in the least, the absolutely undeniable fact that it is right-wing Trumpies who are the vast majority of the unvaccinated. And who have perfectly good access to medical care and vaccines. Trying to change that fact into fiction is nonsense.

Robert Fields

But he always tries so very hard… [rolleyes]

Bob Res

Uh…no. The imperative statement was “… Ethnic populations, especially Hispanic and Black communities, have more unvaccinated people and in turn more cases…”.

These are statistically not Trumpers, so I’m calling you on fake news.

Robert Fields

Mike, you are conjuring conclusions that cannot be drawn from those comments. What Parajon said was that Hispanic and Black communities have more unvaccinated people and in turn more cases. She did not specify more than what at least as quoted here. She just said they have more unvaccinated, presumably than whites but we are already having to guess, so let’s guess she is comparing to whites. Republicans or democrat whites? It makes a difference.

Whites are likely to have higher vaccination rates for the reasons she gave and others, but well over half of those vaccinated whites are liberals. Among conservative populations vaccination rates much lower. You are claiming credit for all the vaccinations among whites when what is far more likely if you could separate the data for Trumpites as you call them (and you can), conservative whites would be much closer to the bottom.

Mike Johnson

According to Pew, 83% of Blacks and 63% of Hispanics vote for Democrats. So now tell me what you think the political view is of the unvaccinated in NM? I would opine it is mostly Democrats that are unvaccinated, not GOP. So is not the conservatives that are the problem here.

Robert Fields

“I would opine it is mostly Democrats that are unvaccinated, not GOP.”

And you would be even more wrong than you usually are - which is already a high bar for you.

Bob Res

Please….share some specific and curate math/data with us instead of emotions and beliefs.

If you do the work you will find the vaccination rates among people of color and the younger “invincible” make up a sizeable portion of the unvaccinated. You will also find that women of child bearing age and who either are pregnant or or trying (hint….about 75%) also make up a good portion, as do those who have survived covid and therefore have 27 times the immunity versus the vaccine (see the Israel study of 700,000 people) also make up quite a portion.

In short, quit trying to divide you’re neighbors and fellow citizens.

——- Bob Res

Robert Fields

Bob, I’m not denying that some people of color are vaccine hesitant. There have been events in this country’s history that have been absolutely shocking and understandably cause suspicion and mistrust. But all you are arguing, paraphrasing, is “they are as bad as we are”. When I was writing the response you replied to, the data are bad for people of color AND for conservative whites.

EVERYONE who does not have legitimate medical reasons not to should get the vaccine. You should stop deflecting and trying to whatabout and just get your shots. You’re tacitly admitting white conservatives are doing a bad job. I agree.

As to the errors in your post, 75% of women are not pregnant or trying except maybe in The Handmaid’s Tale. The first link shows the US birth rate is 11 out of 1000 in 2019 - the lowest in quite some time. I have seen numbers as high as 60 per 1000 but that’s still only 6%. That’s a pretty big error in your numbers, Bob. 86% of women have children but that’s over their entire lifetime. At any given time, 75% of women are not pregnant or trying to get pregnant. Care to cite an actual source? Where are your numbers, Bob?

Having been exposed to covid or surviving it does not give 27 times the “immunity” of the vaccines. Unvaccinated can get sick with covid multiple times and do it twice as much as vaccinated. Note also that covid infections can be of different severity. Some infected show no symptoms and after vaccination, people who are infected show much reduced symptoms than unvaccinated. It’s a two-fer when you get vaccinated. Your body is more likely to fight off the infection and your symptoms are less severe.

I’m not trying to divide anyone except for those still reachable after you, Mike, and others do your best to convince them covid is a hoax, vaccines don’t work, and natural immunity is something to bet your life on.

Mike Johnson

[thumbup][thumbup] Well said, division and obfuscation are the hallmarks of Mr. Fields' posts.....

Janet Lucks

Read the headlines from Texas Florida and the rest of Republican states with low vaccination rates many anti-vax mask pastors, radio personalites,politicians and the like have all DIED while preaching nonsense??

Mike Johnson

So deaths are the issue? Let's look at New Mexico's deaths per capita for this pandemic. NM ranks 15th worst in that metric, while Texas is 22nd, Florida is 14th, Utah (very GOP) is 46th, Oklahoma is 21st, Kansas is 26th, West Virginia is 29th, Kentucky is 30th, while NY and Massachusetts (very left wing) are the 2nd and 4th worst states for per capita deaths. I would say your hypothesis can easily be disproven, got anything else?

Robert Fields

Ah, Mike, there you go again comparing apples and oranges, not understanding the data, and making the wrong conclusions.

First, with no citation, we can’t check the validity of your numbers.

And a first, uncritical look at the data at worldometer does show the general trend you mention but that data is useless to use to try to discredit vaccination. Why, you ask? Because those are the numbers taken over the whole of the pandemic, over the original virus and two mutations, through times with no vaccines and no treatments, through severely-overwhelmed emergency rooms, etc. You isolated no variables and try to draw conclusions from that? Nope. All you really get from that data now is that more have died than in any war the US has been involved in including the civil war. It pulls states that were initially hit hard by covid into the results while minimizing the contributions from mask, vaccine, and distancing hesitancy we are seeing now.

Instead, you should look at recent per capita data if you want to look at current issues. If you do that, the picture gets much worse for red states.

Over the 7 days before Sept. 15th, the ordering by average deaths over those 7 days is Texas, Florida, and Georgia in the top three slots. New Mexico is 33rd.

No, Mike, it’s your hypothesis that’s easily disproven because you used the data incorrectly and used the wrong data to make your point. Your inability to use data properly is probably why you keep making bad conclusions.

Robert Kowalski

And they know this how?

Robert Fields

Bob, it’s complicated to explain but the data can be fit to curves and that allows prediction of future behavior based on past and present behavior. Those curve shapes can also be used to detect data manipulation if data deviates too far from how real data behaves. As an aside, Florida’s death rate was obviously manipulated because of a reported rapid drop off in cases and it turned out the state implemented a reporting change that delayed deaths being tallied and distorted the curve shape. You can still see this issue by looking at the Florida death curve on Worldometer.

Real data tends to have certain characteristics that allow prediction of future behavior once you have enough data. Arthur C. Clarke said it well: “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” It’s not magic, and not even that advanced. But if you ever had statistics classes or worked with real world data much, it would be much more clear how this kind of thing can be known.

Plus, you can spot the clues to coming floods of hospital patients in testing results, and the deaths to come from testing and hospitalization numbers. There are just delays as hospitalizations follow infections and deaths follow hospitalizations. This is why testing has been so important - testing tells you what is happening in your community and predicts what will happen to the hospitals and ultimately, morgues.

The short answer is they can know these numbers. There is plenty of experience now to know how covid moves through a community and how patients progress from infection to hospitalization to possibly death. The data also explains why masks, vaccines, and distancing all matter. It’s all there.

If you really want to understand better instead of just trying to distract and sow doubt, you might check what classes are available to you on statistics and interpreting data. Look for anything about predictive analytics. I’m no expert on this stuff but know enough to understand a bit of how it works. It’s very real and very useful.

JB Weinberg

Mr. Fields - I agree with all of your posts. I just want to say that you are wasting your precious time speaking truth, facts and logic to illogical truth-deniers and alternative-fact believers. I mean, this isn't even a robust debate because most are operating on a different set of facts. Better to spend your time on more productive efforts to battle the pandemic. This ain't the place.

Robert Fields

I have to disagree. I think most know these guys by their misinformation, misdirection, social media sources, and even outright lies. But not everyone does. The usual suspects are trying to be influencers and to pull undecideds away and into their camp. They obviously think it’s time well spent. One is tied closely to oil and gas in SE New Mexico and denies climate change as hard as he possibly can. The others are presumably just amazingly misinformed as they regurgitate the far right covid talking points. I don’t expect to change their minds. I’d be very surprised if I have convinced them of anything.

I think it’s better to shine light on their misinformation, outright lies, and misdirection instead of leaving them to do their work unchallenged and in the dark. Every person they convince is another person upset about wearing a mask, getting a shot, or not considering environmental impact in the decisions they make.

I know it’s not the best use of my time but it’s something I can do. I’ve had one relative get prescribed ivermectin in Lubbock, another that couldn’t get care for an acute condition because her town’s hospital was full of covid patients, and we just found out another has died. The misinformation is causing pain, suffering, and death and many families have their own stories now. There is sadly nothing unique about covid misinformation, and the consequences of sickness and death.

I wish SFNM would do a better job policing these pages. I get free speech but there are a number who are putting other people’s lives in danger with their “advice” and they need to be muzzled or banned. Until SFNM cleans them out, or me, I’ll refute their posts as long as I can. Besides, I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t fun in some cases.

Since this is one place where they are trying to recruit others, that makes this the place to fight them. There’s lots more places they are doing this and we all need to do more to refute and counter their lies and misinformation. Every bit matters.

“Let not any one pacify his conscience by the delusion that he can do no harm if he takes no part, and forms no opinion. Bad men need nothing more to compass their ends, than that good men should look on and do nothing.” — John Stuart Mill

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