SANTA FE — New Mexico administered more than 41,000 vaccine doses to fight COVID-19 over the last two weeks — about 83% of the supply delivered to the state.
Dr. Tracie Collins, who leads the state Department of Health, described the pace as “positive” and encouraged New Mexicans to preregister for the vaccine online to be notified when they’re eligible for a dose.
The state has dedicated its early vaccine allocation to health care systems looking to protect front-line workers, staff and residents at long-term care facilities, and pueblos working with the state.
“We just need to hang on,” Collins said in an online briefing. “There’s a bright light at the end of the tunnel.”
New Mexico also updated its color-coded map Wednesday outlining public health regulations for counties through mid-January.
Just one community — Catron County, in southwestern New Mexico — reached one of the statistical targets necessary to relax some of its public health regulations under the state’s “Red to Green” system.
The state’s other 32 counties will remain in the red for the next two weeks, the most stringent level in New Mexico’s three-tiered public health order.
State officials, however, say they’re seeing improvement. Fourteen of the state’s 33 counties now have a test positivity rate of 10% or less — within 5 points of the target that would allow them to move out of the red.
This month’s rollout of vaccines could start to shape the case numbers sometime in January, according to modeling by Los Alamos National Laboratory.
Collins said Wednesday that New Mexico health officials are still working out the details of who will get the next few batches of vaccine, based on federal recommendations. Broadly speaking, she said, the groups on tap for January and February include older adults, essential workers and people with chronic health conditions.
How quickly the vaccine is available more broadly will depend on the supplies delivered to New Mexico.
Collins said 49,625 vaccines had been delivered to the state through Sunday — 41,075 of which had been administered.
“This vaccine distribution, it’s a really complex logistical operation,” she said. “I am positive in the direction we’re going.”
For maximum protection, each person will need two shots of a COVID-19 vaccine, spaced three to four weeks apart.
Collins estimated people will be about 25% protected 10 days after the first shot and 90% after the second dose. New Mexico is now using vaccines manufactured by Pfizer and Moderna, though other vaccines may become available next year.
New Mexico health officials are watching closely the reports of a new variant of COVID-19. But Collins said she’s hopeful the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines will prove effective against it.
Numbers up slightly
New Mexico reported 33 more coronavirus deaths Wednesday and about 1,300 new cases — numbers just above the state’s recent averages.
The new fatalities pushed the statewide death toll to 2,436 residents.
Wednesday’s victims were largely older adults, including four people in their 90s, but a man and woman in their 30s also died.
The city of Albuquerque announced Wednesday that its inspector general, Ken Bramlett, had died after contracting COVID-19. He was 67 and had underlying health conditions.
Bramlett oversaw an independent office that investigates allegations of wrongdoing at City Hall.
“A former Marine, Ken applied the Corps’ core values of Honor, Courage and Commitment to his work with the City,” Mayor Tim Keller said in a statement. “He will be dearly missed, and our hearts are with the Bramlett family.”
Over the last week, New Mexico has averaged about 28 virus-related deaths a day.
Health officials on Wednesday also reported 1,316 new cases of the virus, pushing the seven-day average up to 1,135.
The share of tests that come back positive also climbed slightly over the last week — to 12.1%.
Health officials reported that 792 virus patients are hospitalized in New Mexico, a small decrease from the 806 in hospitals the day before.
32 counties still ‘red’
COVID-19 case totals have generally fallen over the last two weeks.
Twenty-eight of the state’s 33 counties improved their daily case average since mid-December, according to the Department of Health.
All but one county, however, remain in the red tier for health restrictions in the “Red to Green” system.
To advance to yellow, a county must hit one of two statistical targets — either a test positivity rate of 5% or less, or fewer than eight new cases a day per 100,000 people. Reaching both standards will put a county in the green.
Catron County reached yellow — the standard in which indoor restaurant dining is allowed at partial capacity — after reducing its new cases to 5.7 a day per 100,000 people over the last two weeks.
It’s also near the other goal, with a 6.7% test positivity rate.
Los Alamos just missed moving out of the red — with 5.2% of its tests positive and 20.5 daily cases per 100,000 people.
Bernalillo County is at 11.3% and 53.8 cases per 100,000, Sandoval County is at 10.5% and 56.7 cases, and Santa Fe is at 7.2% and 34 cases.
The map is updated every two weeks.