“Day 568” almost seemed like deja vu when it came to a media update on the New Mexico Department of Health’s Facebook page: Numbers and more numbers, and the

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perpetual advice to get vaccinated.
COVID-19’s Delta variant isn’t going away, it was noted. Although hospitalizations have decreased — to 287 Wednesday after as many as 397 earlier this month (Sept. 9) — a late-summer surge has resulted in 600 or more positive-test cases on a daily basis, compared to positive tests ranging in the low 100s from mid-May to mid-July.
That 287 number, said Dr. David Scrase, acting DOH cabinet secretary, is “a low for the past six weeks or so.” But he added the state had only 10 COVID intensive care unit hospital beds available at the time.
Positive-test cases in Sandoval County, where 10 people have died of the virus this month, have remained in the upper 30s to the mid-40s this month. Statewide, the daily death toll has been as few as eight into the mid-teens, after the mid-summer single-digit tolls.
Turnaround time for COVID tests, done at many places, is averaging 1.46 days to get results.
On Sept. 27, the positive-test case rate was 6.6 percent, under the state’s “gate criteria” aim of 7.5 percent.
The DOH is monitoring re-infection cases and breakthrough cases now, although both are “relatively infrequent,” state epidemiologist Dr. Christine Ross said.
Ross said the surge in cases “is beginning to decline,” although there have been more than 689,000 COVID deaths in the U.S. and more than 4,700 in New Mexico.
DOH Deputy Secretary Dr. Laura Parajón said 79.9 percent of the state’s eligible residents 18 years and older have had at least one vaccination shot. She also outlined the parameters for who should be seeking a Pfizer booster.
She noted that it’s a good time for everyone to get their flu shots — even at the same time and in the same arm as a COVID-19 immunization.
Ross expressed her concern for the “elevated case counts among school children,” and stressed CDC data that indicated the odds of a COVID-19 outbreak in schools with no mask requirements were 3.5 times higher than those with an early mask mandate.
Scrase was enthusiastic when he reported New Mexico is regarded as a “high-vaccination, low-hospitalization” state. He said 88 percent of the state’s hospital employees have been fully vaccinated, with 7 percent having approved exemptions and not required to be vaccinated.
“Remember, Delta is two times more infectious,” Scrase concluded. “We need to be two times more careful.”
He again advised the mantra for everyone to frequently wash their hands, social-distance, wear masks and get preventive health care, which many people had put off during the height of the pandemic.
As always: “Get vaccinated,” he advised.

Check your booster eligibility
The DOH has a new COVID-19 booster eligibility tool (vaccineNM.org), located on the right-hand side of this landing page and titled “Am I eligible for a booster?”
By taking this short questionnaire, individuals can determine their eligibility for the Pfizer booster in a matter of minutes — and schedule an appointment if eligible. The page also answers frequently asked questions about the booster.

Gary Herron | Observer staff writer