1% of state residents test positive for COVID - Albuquerque Journal

1% of state residents test positive for COVID

At-home COVID-19 test kits that were distributed at an event in Ohio. The state of New Mexico recently announced the launch of an at-home COVID testing program. (AP Photo/David Dermer, File)

Copyright © 2022 Albuquerque Journal

New Mexico on Tuesday reported more than 21,000 new COVID-19 cases since Friday – which means a whopping 1% of the state’s 2.1 million residents tested positive for the disease over the long holiday weekend.

The state also reported 32 new COVID-related deaths, pushing the statewide toll to 6,177.

State health officials have cautioned it takes several weeks for the number of deaths to mirror a rise in cases, which New Mexico is experiencing amid the emergence of the new and highly contagious omicron variant. The state set daily records of over 5,500 and 5,200 new cases on Thursday and Friday, respectively.

Of the 21,305 new cases reported Tuesday, 6,110 were from Bernalillo County. Of the 32 deaths, 15 were Bernalillo County residents.

Despite the high number of new cases, there is optimism among local health care professionals that the new strain of the coronavirus won’t be as lethal as prior versions, based on preliminary data from areas that have already experienced a surge of the new variant.

The number of people hospitalized with COVID throughout the state was 624 on Tuesday, up from 586 on Friday.

More than one of every four COVID tests is coming back positive, with the state reporting a seven-day positivity rate of 28.5%.

The staggering number of confirmed cases does not take into account all the positive cases, as at-home testing has become more common. Not all cases found using at-home tests are reported to the state.

And such testing is about to become more common.

New Mexico state officials announced this week a new state-run, at-home COVID-19 testing program would be rolling out soon, though details of how the program will work were not immediately clear.

“Part of learning to live with COVID as we go forward is putting the tools to fight the virus into our home, and home testing is one of the tools that, in the long run, will enable us to manage this pandemic,” Dr. David Scrase, acting health secretary, said in a news release.

On Monday, the state announced that it was expecting to receive 1 million rapid antigen tests soon that will be distributed to individuals free of charge. A California company, iHealth, makes the tests the state will be using, according to a Department of Health spokeswoman.

The state will order an additional 1 million tests every two weeks, according to the Health Department.

About 400,000 have already been secured and the rest are scheduled to arrive next week, according to a Health Department news release.

The release said that, in the next week or so, the tests will be sent to emergency managers in 26 of the state’s 33 counties that are home to the state’s 79 zip codes with the highest social vulnerability index. Factors that can increase a community’s social vulnerability include poverty, lack of access to transportation and crowded housing, according to the CDC’s website.

State health officials on Tuesday did not specify which counties and which residents would qualify for the at-home tests once the program is launched. Katy Diffendorfer, a spokeswoman for the Health Department, said officials in individual counties will create their own distribution plans.

Currently, it’s common to find that pharmacies in the Albuquerque area have sold out of testing kits.

Meanwhile, the federal government has unveiled a new website in order to send rapid COVID tests to homes. The website, covidtests.gov, allows people to get four tests sent to their homes for free.

State health officials are scheduled to provide an update on coronavirus in New Mexico on Wednesday afternoon.

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