Copyright © 2021 Albuquerque Journal
SANTA FE – New Mexico’s rolling average of new COVID-19 cases dipped Tuesday to its lowest number since early August, offering further evidence the state could be on the downswing of a wave of cases fueled by the highly contagious delta variant of the virus.
However, the number of hospitalizations related to COVID-19 increased over the past week, and New Mexico’s virus death toll rose to 4,700 when state health officials reported 11 additional deaths.
The latest surge in new COVID-19 cases prompted Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s administration to reimpose a mask mandate for indoor public settings and enact a vaccine mandate for hospital workers, corrections officers and other employees in group home settings.
While those steps have generated criticism and protests, state health officials have said they have also led to a reduction in virus spread.
Statewide, 412 new cases were reported Tuesday, bringing the seven-day rolling average of daily new cases to 610. That marked a modest decrease from the previous week and a more sizable drop from the average of 777 new cases daily during the first week of this month.
However, New Mexico is still classified as having a “high” level of community transmission, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – along with every other state except for California.
Meanwhile, the state’s COVID-19 vaccination rate continued to tick up Tuesday, as 79.5% of New Mexico residents ages 18 and older have received at least one vaccine dose and 69.9% of adults are fully vaccinated.
That vaccine administration rate is among the nation’s highest, with only five states having higher rates per capita than New Mexico – Maine, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island, according to CDC data.
Although some vaccinated individuals have tested positive for COVID-19 over the past month, state DOH data indicates the overwhelming majority of hospitalizations and deaths due to the virus have occurred among unvaccinated residents.
As of Tuesday, 369 people were hospitalized with COVID in New Mexico – up from 352 a week earlier but down from peak levels earlier this month.
The increase in virus-related hospitalizations has renewed concerns about the strain on already full hospitals that have also been dealing with a worsening nurse shortage, but top state health officials said recently that they have been able to transfer COVID-19 patients to other facilities when necessary to avoid rationing care.