COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in New Mexico generally flat as omicron boosters increase

Daily reported cases of COVID-19 in New Mexico are at their lowest plateau since April, the state health department declared on Thursday, although some parts of the state are seeing increases as the state also sees increased spread of seasonal fall-winter viruses.

Acting state Health Secretary Dr. David Scrase, who also heads the state Human Services Department, noted during a video news conference there has been increased transmission of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, which causes COVID-19, in the southwestern counties of Hidalgo, Grant and Catron, as well as milder increases in the more heavily populated Albuquerque metro area.

Reported cases do not account for the results of home testing kits, however, and Scrase has said the actual number of COVID-19 cases is likely much higher. This is one reason the state mainly watches hospitalizations and deaths as a measure of how the disease moves around the state.

This illustration provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, CDC, in Jan. 2020 shows the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV).
This illustration provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, CDC, in Jan. 2020 shows the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV).

Hospitalizations for COVID-19 have also kept to a flat trend, per health department data, with 91 COVID patients hospitalized in the state as of Wednesday and 73 admissions between Sept. 27 and Oct. 4.

The state counted 30 new deaths to the disease in the past month, bringing the state's total known fatal cases to 8,586. Nationwide, nearly 1.1 million have succumbed to the illness, though vaccines and oral treatments have slowed fatalities, and the dominant subvariants, while highly infectious, are associated with generally less severe disease than during previous waves.

In New Mexico, the BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants of the omicron strain remain dominant. So far, over 70,700 doses of a new booster specifically targeting omicron have been administered, and Scrase, along with acting state epidemiologist Dr. Laura Parajón, urged residents to get updated flu shots and the new booster, as eligible.

Over 70,700 omicron-focused boosters have been administered in NM.

"We've been saying that we hope that someday we get to the point that coronavirus vaccines are an annual event that we get once a year," Scrase said, while noting that the coronavirus is not seasonal in its ebb and flow, like other familiar viruses. "We're on our way now to, I hope, an annual or periodic update to the vaccine that's good for whatever is circulating in the community recently."

As far as patients suffering long-term complications from COVID-19, a phenomenon commonly known as "Long COVID," Scrase said there is now a formal diagnosis but still no reporting requirements for data gathering purposes, in large part because the precise definition, frequency and scope of the problem are not yet determined.

"We're in a dilemma where we know this exists, but we don't have a standard definition," Scrase said. He said he had observed the phenomenon among his own patients and said that he had already been in some discussions of establishing a New Mexico clinic focused on Long COVID.

Vaccines are available for free at pharmacies and local providers. More information on how to obtain them is available online at or by phone at 855-600-3453 (option 3).

Monkeypox and syphilis

Supplies of vaccine for monkeypox are ample enough in New Mexico that eligibility has been expanded to people who are at risk for contracting the illness, Scrase announced Thursday.

So far, 26,385 cases were reported in the United States and 46 in New Mexico. While the illness is rarely fatal, there have been two deaths nationwide. In New Mexico, there have been no fatal cases, though two patients have been hospitalized.

Parajón stressed that anyone may contract monkeypox, a viral illness related to smallpox, if they come into close contact with someone who has it. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that the main driver of the current outbreak has been sexual contact among men, but may be spread through any close physical contact or objects and materials used by someone with a positive case, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.

A full course of the JYNNEOS monkeypox vaccine consists of two doses administered 28 days apart. Parajón said 2,161 initial doses had been administered in New Mexico and 996 of the second.

The two physicians addressed a nationwide increase in syphilis cases among newborn babies, stating that New Mexico had expanded testing during pregnancy and at birth to identify and treat such cases. On Wednesday, the New Mexico Department of Health renewed a public health order advising medical providers to test pregnant mothers multiple times.

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

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This article originally appeared on Las Cruces Sun-News: COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations flat as omicron boosters increase