In a sign of an Omicron variant surge, New Mexico on Friday experienced a record-high in the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases, though Quay County’s still-high case numbers continued a downward trend last week.
The state’s Department of Health reported 4,246 new cases Friday, beating the previous high from Nov. 19, 2020, by nearly 600.
New Mexico had recorded 3,000 cases in a single day just three times since the pandemic began in early 2020, but two of those instances occurred last week.
New Mexico Health Secretary David Scrase during a briefing last week estimated 70% of new COVID-19 cases were of the Omicron variant. He predicted that number would hit 100% this week.
Scrase said Omicron was three times more contagious than the Delta variant, placing it in the same infectiousness as chicken pox.
However, Scrase said he saw signs Omicron would produce a lower rate of hospitalizations than previous variants. The sheer number of COVID-19 cases has strained New Mexico hospitals for months.
“I think we have reason to be cautiously optimistic” about hospitalizations, he said.
Scrase said the surge in infections also is causing a crunch in the supply of COVID-19 treatments. He said such drugs will be limited to high-risk patients.
“We will be in a tight spot for two to three weeks” until the production of such medical treatment increases, he said.
Scrase signaled his was disinclined to recommend shutting down schools due to the variant. He noted regions saw less community spread of the virus when children attended school than when schools were shut down. He surmised it was because stringent mask requirements of students and staff blunted the disease’s spread.
Fourteen COVID-19 deaths were reported in the state Friday, raising the total to 5,897.
A total of 539 people were hospitalized in New Mexico with the disease Friday, an increase of 25 from the previous week.
The Amarillo metro region on Friday totaled more than 4,700 active cases of the disease, a jump of more than 1,300 from the previous week. The active-case count in the metro was about 300 last summer.
The disease has killed 1,022 people in the Amarillo metro since the pandemic began.
In the U.S., more than 59.9 million people have been confirmed with COVID-19 since the pandemic began, with more than 837,000 deaths, on Sunday.
The New Mexico Department of Health reported a total of 45 new cases of the virus in Quay County last week, which signaled a lessening but still-high spread of the disease.
A total of 56 cases was reported the previous week.
As recently as early December, the county’s weekly case numbers were in the 90 to 100 range.
However, the COVID Act Now website on Thursday downgraded Quay County from “very high risk” to “severe risk” – the worst rating – for risk of COVID-19 spread.
According to state epidemiology reports, Quay County recorded a COVID-19 case rate of 37.4 new cases per 100,000 people from Dec. 27 to Jan. 2, which had been trending downward for several weeks. The previous week’s number was 64.7 per 100,000.
The county improved from the sixth-worst rate in New Mexico to the second-best. Only Guadalupe County had a lower spread rate during that time.
In December, Quay County spent several weeks as the state’s worst county in per-capita case numbers.
Neighboring De Baca County was the second-worst in New Mexico, with a rate of 132 per 100,000 people. Only Grant County was worse, with a rate of 145.1.
The total number of cases in the county since the pandemic began in spring 2020 rose to 1,622 by Friday.
Last week’s cases mostly were in the Tucumcari or Logan ZIP codes.
The breakdown of COVID-19 cases by ZIP code in Quay County through Friday was 1,230 in Tucumcari, 255 in Logan, 68 in San Jon, 21 in House, 17 in McAlister, 15 in Bard and 12 in Nara Visa.
No deaths were reported in Quay County last week, keeping the total at 31 since the pandemic began. Twenty-three deaths have occurred in the county since late May.
A total of 1,389 people in the county were deemed by the DOH to have recovered from the virus.
These COVID-19 rapid responses in the county were reported last week:
• Tucumcari Public Schools, one case reported Jan. 3 and three cases reported Jan. 4;
• Logan Municipal Schools, one case reported Jan. 3;
• Flying J Travel Center, Tucumcari, one case reported Jan. 4.
A typical rapid response consists of isolating positive cases, quarantining close contacts, ceasing operations to the extent necessary to isolate affected areas, disinfecting these areas, implementing safety procedures and resuming operations. Typically, operations are ceased for fewer than 24 hours before it is safe to reopen.
The Quay County Family Health Center is holding a mass-vaccination event Thursday at the Quay County Fairgrounds Exposition Building from 8:30 to 11 a.m. and from noon to 2 p.m.
During the clinic’s previous vaccination event in mid-December, more than 200 were administered booster shots.
According to state data through Friday, 51.6% of Quay County residents have been fully vaccinated against coronavirus. That was an increase of 0.2% from the previous week.
About 58.6% of county residents have received one shot of COVID-19 vaccine through Friday, an increase of 0.3% from the previous week.
In New Mexico, 76% of eligible residents had been fully vaccinated by Friday, with 89.2% receiving at least one dose of vaccine.
Residents can schedule vaccinations through the state’s registration portal at VaccineNM.org. Parents can sign up children over age 5 for vaccinations at the state’s portal at vaccineNM.org/kids or their health provider.
The Department of Health’s vaccination helpline is available at 855-600-3453, option 3.
New Mexico residents age 18 and over may now schedule a booster shot if:
• They received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine more than two months ago, or;
• They completed the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine series more than six months ago.
From Dec. 6 to Jan. 3, more than 88% of the COVID-19 deaths in New Mexico occurred among the unvaccinated.
Deputy Health Secretary Laura Parajon last week continued to urge residents to get their primary and booster COVID-19 shots because such regimens reduce the chance of the virus spreading.
Parajon said the recent surge of cases has caused a nationwide shortage of COVID-19 tests. She suggested going on the internet to FindATestNM.org, Curative.org or Vaulthealth.com/nm for testing options, including self-tests that can be delivered to one’s home.
The state also adopted the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s new guidelines for those exposed to the virus. In short, anyone in close contact who shows no symptoms for five days can stop quarantining but still must wear a mask for five more days. The previous guideline for exposures was 10 days of quarantine.