Modeling by Los Alamos National Laboratory shows COVID-19 is expected to have another surge through the first half of this month, but in light of more and more New Mexicans getting their shots, this could be the peak.

“(This) should hopefully peak soon with continued mitigation strategies (immunizations, masks and social distancing) — perhaps in the next week,” said Dr. Christine Ross, state epidemiologist.

Experts, some of whom appeared on a New Mexico Department of Health Facebook update on Sept. 1, said 700-1,500 positive-test cases, with between three and eight daily deaths, can be expected.

“We are gonna have a couple of really rough weeks,” predicted Dr. David Scrase, acting cabinet secretary of the state DOH. “One death is too many deaths.”

According to statistics gleaned from DOH daily releases, New Mexico had 93 people die from COVID-19 in August, which included two in Sandoval County — both men in their 50s or 60s, hospitalized with underlying conditions.

The county had one such death in June, and then two in July. Sandoval County, it was reported Sept. 1, has 30,802 of its residents ages 18 and older unvaccinated, but 73.7 percent of those eligible fully vaccinated.

The chances of getting COVID-19 are said to be one in 19 or 20 for those who have been vaccinated.

There was some presumptive good news and some bad news that day.

Ross termed it “a very striking difference in the number of cases” when she compared COVID-19 cases in the state’s northwest region, where 66.3 percent of those 18 and up are vaccinated, and the southeast region, with 45.6 of its eligible residents vaccinated.

COVID cases among school-age children are increasing because the Delta variant spreads easily in indoor spaces where people are unmasked and unvaccinated, said Ross. Although those youngsters are masked, those under 12 are not yet eligible to be immunized.

Case rates for those ages 5-17 and 18-34 are higher than the other age groups (0-4, 35-64 and 65-plus).

In New Mexico, DOH Deputy Secretary Dr. Laura Parajon said, 59.8 percent of youth ages 12-17 have received at least one shot; 47.4 percent of that age group has been fully vaccinated.

And, noted Scrase, “We are not seeing a rise in hospitalizations in New Mexico children.”

Here in Rio Rancho, the number of students being quarantined — five weeks into the 2021-22 school year — is 727 in the month of August, with every school in the district affected with at least one quarantining. That’s all 10 elementary schools, Shining Stars Preschool and all eight secondary schools, which includes four middle schools.

Not all people quarantined contract the virus. They may have been required quarantine after being determined to have been close contacts of someone who tested positive or after showing COVID-like symptoms.

Gary Herron | Observer staff writer