COVID-19 case rates continue upward slope in New Mexico

As June came to a close, reported cases of COVID-19 continued to rise in New Mexico as vaccines for children younger than 5 were distributed and national health experts predicted a new surge late in the year, a pattern seen during the previous two years.

Reported daily cases from the New Mexico Department of Health account only for positive results in lab-confirmed PCR tests and not from home tests. How much of an undercount it represents is not known but a month ago New Mexico's acting Health Secretary Dr. David Scrase said actual cases could be at least three times the reported number.

From June 20 to 27, the state reported 6,874 new cases, while the average through June has been 6,400 per week, compared to 2,933 in May ― a 50 percent increase.

Over the past week, the densest rate of transmission was in Sierra County with 82.5 new cases per 100,000 population, a way of scaling infection rates to adjust for different population sizes.

Besides adjacent Grant County, infections were densest across a swath of northern New Mexico from San Juan and McKinley counties in the northwest to San Miguel County.

The heat map maintained by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Thursday showed all of New Mexico's 33 counties at substantial to high rates of transmission, based on known daily case rates and test positivity. That map has grown progressively red and orange, representing the highest thresholds of community spread, over the spring and summer.

The percentage of emergency department visits for symptoms consistent with COVID-19 that included positive diagnosis for the disease has essentially plateaued during June, topping 6 percent.

The state's hospital network reported another week-over-week increase to 155 hospitalizations, from 122 the previous week. From June 20 to 26, hospitalizations for COVID-19 were densest in Rio Arriba County when adjusted for age and population, at 14.8 per 100,000. In the southern part of the state, Luna County led in hospitalizations at 9.3 per 100,000.

A Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine dose is drawn from a vial during a clinic at Promise Arizona's office in Phoenix on Jan. 26, 2022.
A Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine dose is drawn from a vial during a clinic at Promise Arizona's office in Phoenix on Jan. 26, 2022.

On Wednesday, the health department said 188 were currently hospitalized in New Mexico for COVID-19, with 22 patients on ventilators.

The latest week's data came as the state distributed supplies of newly authorized vaccines for children between the ages of 6 months and 5 years.

Want a COVID shot in New Mexico? Here's a refresher on vaccines and boosters.

The state health department last updated its vaccine data portal on June 7, at which point over 1.3 million New Mexico adults had completed a primary course of vaccine, or 79 percent of those ages 18 and over. However, despite rising cases being attributed in part to waning immunity, only 71 percent had received at least one booster shot.

Vaccines against COVID-19 continue to be available for free and distribution locations can be found online at

Besides vaccines, which have proven effective against hospitalization and death due to SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus infection, health officials have recommended regular handwashing, physical distance from non-household members and wearing a well-fitting N95 or KN95 mask in public indoor settings as ways to slow community spread and protect others.

While recommended, indoor mask mandates were lifted in most public spaces in New Mexico in February, and state health officials have not indicated any move toward reinstituting mask mandates.

The day's reported cases were 1,129. While the majority of positive cases recover with mild to moderate symptoms of disease, 7,928 cases (1.4 percent of the total) had proven fatal as of Wednesday.

Algernon D'Ammassa can be reached at 575-541-5451, or @AlgernonWrites on Twitter.

This article originally appeared on Las Cruces Sun-News: COVID-19 case rates continue upward slope in New Mexico