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More than 900 days since COVID-19 arrived in New Mexico, the state has hit a “valley” of cases and is armed with a variety of weapons to fight future surges, state health officials said Thursday.
The state this week reported 1,604 new cases in the last seven days. That was about on par with weekly case counts that the state has reported for the last month or so, according to New Mexico Department of Health epidemiology reports.
There were 86 people with COVID in hospitals throughout the state on Thursday. The state did report four additional deaths, pushing the toll to 8,590 since the onset of the pandemic.
Dr. David Scrase, the acting health secretary, said the hospitals are not overwhelmed by the number of COVID patients like they were at previous stages of the pandemic.
“We have these peaks and we have these valleys, and we’re in a valley right now,” he said. “But we’ve never been in a valley like this with as many tools as we now have to fight the pandemic. So we’re in a good place.”
The tools include masks, easy access to tests, medications to treat people once they are infected and vaccines. In the last month, the health professionals have been administering a new COVID vaccine that is aimed at protecting specifically against omicron variants, which are the versions of the virus that have been circulating in New Mexico since around the start of the year.
There have been about 70,000 doses of the new vaccine administered throughout the state.
“If you get boosted, then you’ll be up to date and be protected for the winter,” said Dr. Laura Parajon, the state’s acting epidemiologist. “You’ll be winterized.”
Scrase on Thursday said it appears the pandemic has reached a stage he’s long hoped for. That’s a stage where physicians have plenty of tools to treat people who get sick from the virus, and vaccines can be periodically updated to address emerging variants, similar to the common flu shot.
“I really believe that this is a step from being almost helpless against the pandemic … to, I hope, an annual or periodic update to the vaccine that’s good for whatever is circulating in the community recently,” Scrase said.
Scrase did say the state has concerns about long-COVID, which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defines as a condition where a person has a wide range of symptoms that linger for four weeks or even months after an infection. Scrase said researchers at the University of New Mexico are among those who are looking at ways to treat the condition.
“It’s really hard, and we don’t have much data on what works and what doesn’t work,” he said. “And the data we do have so far are really small studies that sometimes conflict.”