COVID is making a comeback in New Mexico.
The latest, and most transmissible variant, BA.5, is running through New Mexicans like a tidal wave.
Numbers appear low, according to the New Mexico Department of Health, but that is because of the number of people testing at home. The actual numbers could be three to five times higher.
The good news is that about 75 percent of New Mexicans over the age of 5 have been vaccinated, said Dr. David Scrase, acting cabinet director for the New Mexico Department of Health. Hospitalizations, he added, are down as of July 14.
The bad news: BA.5 doesn’t seem to care. This variant easily gets past vaccinations, boosters and previous infections, experts say.
Ba. 5 is the sweeping the country, at about 65 percent of the new cases as of July 9, according to the CDC.
Los Angeles is getting hit hard. So is New York City.
Making things tougher, the nation’s open-door policy, restrictions that have been lifted nationwide, isn’t helping to stave off the spread.
Scrase Thursday in a Zoom press conference, said that the state has no plans to implement restrictions, such as a mask mandate or restricting public gatherings.
“We’re not in any discussions about any mask mandate any more than it was for the pandemic we had two years ago and not for the one we’re having now,” he said.
“What we are considering now is continuing to encourage all New Mexicans to do their part to prevent the spread of the virus. The simplest and easiest one is staying home if you are sick. Don’t bring that virus, whichever one it is, to work.”
The state, he said, is relying on residents to “use their own good judgment.”
His comments come as the Albuquerque Journal revealed that 8,000 New Mexico residents have died from Covid. On Thursday, it was 8,006, Scrase said.
BA.5, he said, will nonetheless become the state’s dominant strain.
“Things come to New Mexico a little later, two to four weeks later, than they come to the East Coast and the West Coast, which is good. That two to four more weeks is an opportunity for us to get really good data about what’s actually happening.”
BA 5, he said, “nationally is by far the most predominant variant.”
Indeed, he pointed out that in Australia, experts maintain that the spread rate is 18 times higher that original strains of Covid. That’s two to five times higher than the spread rate of Omicron in early January, he said.
Scrase noted, however, that he isn’t sure that he believes the numbers because they are only estimates.
“Bad news and good news, which is exactly what we expect,” he said. “The virus actually wants to live with us. So it evolves over time to more easily infect people, but it reduces the number of people that are killed. And that’s what we normally see in any kind of viral spread or pandemic.”
Meantime, residents “should take steps, but we’re not seeing other states imposing restrictions once again.
“I think everyone in New Mexico should be careful and that’s our best way to fight the BA. 5 wave,” he said.
Here’s are the steps the Department of Health urges New Mexico residents to take to protect themselves:
- Get vaccinations
- Get tested at first sign of symptoms
- Get treated right away
- Get a mask for an extra layer of protection.
“Remember the mask,” Scrase said.