State provides vaccine update during COVID briefing
December 9, 2020
SANTA FE — State officials provided an update on COVID-19 vaccinations and promising numbers on reduced spread of the virus, but encouraged continued adherence to public health orders and common-sense COVID-safe protocols.
During a virtual update Thursday afternoon by the governor’s office, the state reported 1,791 new cases of COVID-19, including 24 in Curry County and eight in Roosevelt County.
The state also reported 23 new deaths, including a male in his 70s from Curry County and a male in his 80s from Roosevelt County. Both men were hospitalized.
The total state deaths through Thursday are 1,846, including 32 in Curry County and 17 in Roosevelt County.
Between Nov. 24 and Sunday, the state saw its spread rate drop from 1.3 to .79 and test positivity from 24% to 13%. Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said more work is needed to lower test positivity rates, and repeatedly encouraged New Mexicans to get tested.
“We are aiming for about a statewide 5%, so we have a long way to go,” Lujan Grisham said. “But this is exactly what we were hoping and aiming for. The issue is, two weeks doesn’t change the entire trajectory.
“The more we drive down positivity rates, the more counties go into yellow and green. We need more New Mexicans who are willing to get tested.”
Human Services Secretary David Scrase noted later that the state ranked 24th for daily case average per 100,000 residents, down from sixth 10 days prior.
Lujan Grisham said that FDA approval is still pending, but the state is hoping to get an initial shipment of 17,550 COVID-19 vaccine doses next week.
The first shipment of the Pfizer vaccine will go to hospitals to protect frontline health care workers, while the Moderna vaccine would be directed to patients and staff at long-term care facilities, the governor said. There wouldn’t be enough doses for universal vaccination of these groups, so vaccine recipients will be chosen based on their overall risk.
Lujan Grisham projected that in late February and early March, the state could begin to start vaccination for essential workers. The state will develop plans over the coming months based on vaccine availability.
“Even with the vaccines,” Lujan Grisham said, “we’re going to have to do testing for a year or more. It’s going to take a year for us to have the kind of vaccine penetration we need to have (reduced) prevalence.”
In other items addressed Thursday:
• The state is making $194 million in supplemental unemployment payments, with $1,200 assistance checks to be distributed this month. No additional actions are required from New Mexicans on unemployment insurance.
Also, applications are open for $100 million in New Mexico small business grants at nmfinance.com and $15 million in housing assistance at housingnm.org.
• Scrase spoke briefly on the state beginning wastewater surveillance at correctional facilities and Children, Youth and Families Department facilities.
Various entities have successfully used wastewater testing quickly find and isolate COVID-positive individuals, as the virus can be detected early in waste. In one August example, the University of Arizona acted on a positive sample from a dormitory and through rapid testing found and isolated two asymptomatic individuals — thereby preventing potential spread to more than 300 residents and employees.
Scrase said wastewater testing “tells you if there are zero cases or more than zero cases,” which means that you can either quickly know that a facility of hundreds has no infections or you can do testing and quarantining knowing you’ll find infections.
• Scrase encouraged people to fill out orders for scope of treatment, which establish a patient’s wishes in scenarios that include being on life support. He recommends people do that anyway, but during a pandemic it is more critical.
“You don’t want to put your family in that position where you haven’t had that conversation,” Scrase said.