Mutations of the coronavirus appear to be among the greatest concerns now in the pandemic, although the delta variant still hasn’t gained great traction in New Mexico.

The delta variant has hit hard in Missouri, Arkansas, Mississippi and other states and is cited by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as one of several “variants of concern.”

That variant recently made up only a small portion of scientifically sequenced samples in New Mexico, the state Department of Health said. But projections and analysis in other countries suggest it will increase and probably become the dominant variant in New Mexico and nationwide, the Health Department said.

Doctors and scientists in New Mexico agreed Tuesday the proliferation of variants doesn’t change their No. 1 message.

“Get vaccinated,” said microbiologist Michael Edwards, director of the New Mexico Scientific Laboratory in Albuquerque. “We have to stop the spread of the virus.”

The coronavirus vaccines “still show good protection” against the variants, Edwards added.

The delta variant is “pretty scary” and “really concerning,” Dr. Wendy Johnson, medical director at La Familia Medical Center in Santa Fe, said. And the more transmission of disease that occurs, Johnson said, the greater the risk that even more dangerous variants will develop.

“So, the vaccination is really our way out of this,” she said.

Dr. David Gonzales, chief medical officer of Christus St. Vincent Regional Medical Center, said Tuesday the Delta variant is a major concern. Like other experts, he said the best defense is to get fully vaccinated.

Gonzales said there is no question the vaccines are effective, safe and the “best weapon” against the coronavirus. Close to 99 percent of those who die now of the disease are not fully vaccinated, he said.

Genome sequencing isn’t performed on all samples because there must be enough material in a sample to sequence and not all positive samples are sent to the laboratory, Edwards said.

Variants have gone by various names and designations through the pandemic. At times they are assigned numbers, sometimes they are linked to the nations where they were first found and, increasingly, they are labeled with letters from the Greek alphabet.

The delta variant was first found in India. The beta was first identified in South Africa; the epsilon in California, and the gamma in Brazil and Japan. A variant called the lambda, first found in Peru, also is gaining attention.

The CDC says a variant of concern is one for which there is evidence of an increase in transmissibility, more severe illness, reduction in effectiveness of vaccinations or treatments, or increased failure in diagnostic detection.

The Wall Street Journal’s vaccination tracking system using CDC data reported Tuesday that New Mexico was tied for seventh in the nation with

63.4 percent of eligible residents having had at least one shot. New Mexico was tied for ninth with 55.2 percent having been fully vaccinated.

The Journal’s system bases its percentages on a state’s population, while the state Health Department’s formula considers New Mexico residents 16 and older. According to the state, 62.8 percent of people in that category are fully vaccinated, and 71.1 percent have had at least one shot.

Gonzales said the delta variant is in all 50 states. And because Santa Fe is a destination city for travelers, he said, “there’s plenty of reasons to be vigilant.” Even fully vaccinated people should wear masks in large gatherings, he said.

Johnson said people should dine outside if possible, wear masks and avoid large indoor gatherings.

Her next suggestion might not go over well with some. “If you’re inviting people over to your house, tell people they have to be vaccinated,” she said. “Insist on it.”

(9) comments

Comment deleted.
Mark Stahl

Alright already, we get your point. Repeating the same thing day after day doesn’t make it anymore valid. Surprise us sometime and come up with something new to offer.

Mitch Koolpe

I re-post my comment from June 30th:

I'm confused? Do we follow the Science or not? CDC says face masks not necessary if you are fully vaccinated:

Mike Johnson

Here is an example of the irrational hysteria out there, from the NYT: "Even at establishments that give vaccinated employees the choice to take their masks off, many are keeping them on. “Who knows who has had their shot and who hasn’t,” said Michelle Booker, a store clerk from the Bronx who works at a Verizon store in Midtown Manhattan who has been fully vaccinated for months. She was wearing her mask on a recent Tuesday, although the company permits vaccinated employees to go without masks. “I don’t believe half of the people who come in,” she said. “I’m still terrified.”"

People who wear masks after being fully vaccinated either don't think the vaccine works, and thus do not trust CDC guidance, or they are really irrational germaphobes who think anything will kill them.

Mike Johnson

OMG! That India variant is threatening to kill everyone I understand from the news reports, when will we lock back down and reinstall all the mask mandates and restrictions? Won't it cost lives if we don't? There are many people who believe you need to wear a mask and social distance even if you are vaccinated, that is one reason people don't trust the vaccines.

Mark Stahl

Why do people exercising caution threaten you so much?

Mike Johnson

It doesn't threaten me, it annoys me. I see it as scientific stupidity, the same reason climate alarmists annoy me. Stupidity annoys me, sorry, it's who I am......[lol]

mark Coble

You are not alone in being sane and literate.

Mike Johnson

Good to know Mr. Coble, and for full disclosure, the scientifically stupid anti-vaxxers annoy me just as much, and for the same reason.

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