Despite New Mexico’s overall high vaccination rate and mask mandate, its coronavirus caseload has surged higher than those of some states with lower inoculation rates and fewer restrictions.

State health officials said they have a few theories why but no definite answers.

“We don’t know. We wish we knew more,” Dr. David Scrase, acting state health secretary, said during an online conference Wednesday.

One possibility is New Mexico led the country in inoculating residents early in the vaccine rollouts, so it could lead the nation now in waning immunity, Scrase said, noting that vaccinations lose their efficacy over time.

The latest figures in the New York TimesCOVID-19 tracker show New Mexico having 86 cases per 100,000 residents, outpacing South Dakota’s 36, Texas’ 15 and Florida’s nine — states with lower vaccination rates and no mask requirement.

Texas and Florida, in fact, have barred cities and school districts from imposing mask rules.

Dr. Christine Ross, New Mexico’s state epidemiologist, said there’s no way to know how well certain states are doing without knowing how widely and frequently they test people for the virus.

Other medical data also is required to pin down whether the states are curbing spread or whether information gaps exist, Ross said, adding “there are many variables to look at.”

One thing that’s certain: New Mexico’s numbers of cases and hospitalizations have increased after the state enjoyed a downward trend prior to the more infectious delta variant taking hold — and the caseload is not letting up, Ross said.

“Here in New Mexico, we continue to sit at an uncomfortable plateau,” she said.

The state Department of Health reported Wednesday that 389 people were hospitalized for COVID-19, well above the hospitals’ normal capacity.

Many people’s health declined during the pandemic, partly because they put off medical care, Scrase said; that’s part of what’s causing the heavier flow of patients, he added.

One of the best ways to counter the current outbreak is immunizing the unvaccinated and getting boosters to the fully vaccinated before their earlier shots wear off, Scrase said.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the Pfizer vaccine for 5- to 11-year-olds and guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is expected in the coming week, said Dr. Laura Parajon, deputy secretary for the state Health Department.

The three health officials agreed that vaccinating children will significantly contain the spread.

Scrase noted that earlier this year, three teachers were infected for every student, and now that statistic has flipped, as teachers received shots and many children remain unvaccinated.

Meanwhile, booster shots are available to anyone who’s at least 65. Otherwise, you must be at least 18 in these situations:

• Living in a long-term care facility.

• Suffering underlying medical conditions.

• Living or working in high-risk settings.

• Anyone who received a Johnson & Johnson shot can get a booster after two months.

Roughly 125,000 boosters have been administered since August, and Scrase expects that number to increase exponentially when the shots become available to the larger population.

All three agreed that people must remain vigilant about wearing masks indoors, avoiding crowds and social distancing, even though most people have grown tired of the pandemic and are inclined to let up.

This week, COVID-19 deaths passed 5,000, a reminder that the pandemic is still here and still potentially lethal, Scrase said.

Still, there are no plans to reinstate previous restrictions, such as reduced capacity at businesses and bans on indoor dining, Scrase said. People need to adhere to precautions, get vaccinated if they’re not and receive boosters as soon as they can, he said.

“We’re trying to find a way to live with this virus until it find a better way to get it completely eradicated,” Scrase said.

(22) comments

Bruce Miller

The rate of cases reported for New Mexico in this article is incorrect. The correct number is 41 cases per 100,000, not 86 ( That's still too high, but also quite a bit lower than recent peaks for the other states mentioned in the article--Florida 115, South Dakota 56, and Texas 72. They're lower now because they had their peaks earlier.

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Mike Johnson


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Sabine Strohem

@gerald grow up.

Mitch Koolpe

Interesting article about whether masks in schools work or not:

Andy Blanco

It’s not an alternative reality to use reason to analyze facts and come to a different conclusion. The entire point of the article is that we are not getting any better results, which our public health secretary is virtually openly admitting.

Looking at our region, it is true that Arizona and Texas have marginally higher death rates right now than New Mexico (although this is likely driven by seasonal differences). Utah and Colorado have far lower death numbers than we do, however. Utah has 98 deaths/100,000 while NM has 239/100,000. Utah has a similar climate, population density and has had virtually no mask mandates. Colorado took a middle approach between Utah and Colorado and has a death rate of 140/100,000.

The hyperbole about wanting people to die is in extremely poor taste. The British NHS is not recommending that young children wear masks in school, but I suppose it just must be because its run by Trump-voting bigots.

Andy Blanco

Colorado took a middle path between Utah and NM, I mean.

Mike Johnson

Well said, and we must remember the lockdowns and mandates have damaged NM's economy, and things are worse here economically than in any of our neighbor states, who have much fewer restrictions. NM's unemployment remains one of the highest rates in the nation. And yet, the cases, deaths, hospitalizations continue to stay high, unlike most all other states.

Andy Blanco

Thanks, and I agree that the costs need to be tallied. The fact that we are leading the country in unemployment (at least mid to high 40s out of 50) with an education system that is frankly embarrassing is not debatable. This is reality - costs and benefits. The complete obsession with Covid and the scapegoating of anyone who raises even small objections is childish and neurotic. But, apparently that’s the plan for now.

Mike Johnson


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Mike Johnson


Devin Bent

If anyone wishes to examine the total reported cases per 100k, they can go to this source -- -- and examine the table "Case and death counts by place." Then click on "Cases" and "Adj. for Population". Click on the heading "Total reported cases per 100k," and you will see that the top ten states in cases per capita are all red states with the lax policies of the GOP.

If you then click on "See all" at the bottom of the column, you will see the total number of cases per 100K for all the states. As of 9:55 AM Mountain Time 10/28/2021, the figure for New Mexico is 13,013 cases per 100K or 13.0 per cent. For Texas, 14,510; Arizona, 15,892; Florida, 16,963; North Dakota tops the chart at 19,209. I could go on.

If anyone can find a state that voted for Trump in 202o and has lower cases per 100K than New Mexico, please let me know. New Mexico's policies are working.

If you repeat the effort for deaths per 100k, the Trump states do a little better largely because COVID hit the red states later when treatment had improved. Blue states -- hit by COVID fiirst -- dominated the death lists early. But the red state lax policies have turned the tide -- now red states are 7 of the top ten states for death -- 1,2,4,5,7,8,10. It is an impressive record if you want people to die.

Of course, no one has invest any effort in finding the truth -- you can just keep on with your alternative reality.

Greg Mello

Thank you, Mr. Blanco. Folks might want to look at what Japan has just done: Hmm, I wonder why that happened? Many other success stories could be mentioned. New Mexico is not a success story, not at all. Nor is the U.S. as a whole. Hundreds of thousands of needless deaths.

Mike Johnson

Indeed, and it is all about politics and continues that way.[thumbup]

Gerald Joyce

Absolutely correct, Mr Mello.

Andy Blanco

So, the policy doesn’t appear to work, therefore we must double down on the policy.

Let’s be clear too, on what is different about the current NM Covid restrictions compared to Texas and the other “lax” states - really nothing other than the indoor mask mandate. Is it really that surprising that not wearing a cloth mask until you sit down at your restaurant table doesn’t make any difference? It’s only confusing if you are committed to the highly dubious proposition that the masks we are all wearing magically prevent Covid infection.

I guess you could also say that the state has been more aggressive in mandating that public employees get vaccinated. But the vaccines do not appear to stop the spread very effectively either, although they vastly reduce the chance of death, which is good enough for me.

I would like to see our public officials in this state make policy based on results. This is getting extremely ridiculous that we do not have appreciably better death and infection numbers than states that have been much more hands off, yet we continue to be told how much “better” we have it. Policies that make people feel better are not the same as ones that actually work.

Mike Johnson

[thumbup] Well said and thank you for speaking truth to power. The mask mandate is always curious, I know people who think the obsession with a face covering, of any kind, no standards, is so ubiquitous and aggressive by MLG they believe they do not need a vaccine, as the mask must be even more effective, since even vaccinated people are required to wear them everywhere. That is dangerous misinformation MLG is spreading about the efficacy of masks, and no doubt adding to the resistance of people for vaccines.

Dan Three

Sorry Mr. Bend the truth, Florida and Texas have a lower rate than NM ( Why do people have to make everything political.

Mike Johnson

[thumbup] Well said, and most all states (NM is one of only 4 with a long=term mask mandate still in effect) rates of cases, hospitalizations, and deaths have declined markedly since the August peak, but not NM. MLG and her political so-called "health experts" (really just political hacks) are still using the same messaging, protocols, procedures, etc., and have changed nothing. Yet, they expect a different result....insanity. And of course when politicians do things and issue orders and edicts, people think it is all about politics, I wonder why?

Sabine Strohem

Are they testing?

Amy Earle

High vaccination rates have been touted all along, but they are somewhat misleading. It depends on what part of the state is being discussed. More urban areas of the state have high vaccination rates, but there are many less urban counties that have 50% or less of their populations vaccinated. For example Roosevelt country has a rate in the 30’s. It stands to reason that with a lot of holdouts we are going to continue to see high case numbers and hospitalizations. Up here in SF it is rare to see a person of any age not wearing a mask in public spaces, but if you go to eastern or southern NM there are plenty of people completely ignoring the mask mandate and other health precautions. Between that and low vaccination rates in these areas of course NM can’t seem to get over the hump. The article looks for explanations but ignores the realities. If a large group of people are going to refuse vaccination and not follow public health guidelines this is what you get. This is the case all across the country. What we do be about this who knows, but it’s a problem I don’t see going away as long as the mindset of the vaccine defiant remains as it is now.

Devin Bent

Weekly or daily COVID infection rates will vary markedly over time driven by seasonal changes, regional influences, chance, and other factors. Accordingly, comparison of weekly or daily infection rates among states at any point in time may not mean much. If we wish to compare the effectiveness of state policies, we are better served by comparisons of state infection rates over the entire pandemic. Then we would find that New Mexico per capita infection rate is significantly lower than that of South Dakota, Florida, Arizona, Texas, or any state with the lax policies favored by the GOP.

The article above is probably well-intentioned but gives a misleading impression of the effectiveness of New Mexico policies re COVID. These policies are working and they should be continued.

This is not to say that we should be complacent or lessen our efforts against COVID.

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