The news on the COVID-19 front, at least in New Mexico, continues to get better.
But still, the health experts say, people should stay at home unless it’s necessary to leave, wear masks, wash hands frequently, clean surfaces and stay distanced from others.
Locally, Sandoval County was among the first eight counties in the state to have a majority of its residents vaccinated. The other seven counties are Cibola, Guadalupe, Los Alamos, McKinley, Rio Arriba, San Juan and Taos.
Per the New Mexico Department of Health’s Facebook update on May 5, 53.8 percent — sixth-best in the state — of those in Sandoval County eligible for the vaccine have had at least one shot. Statewide, 44.8 percent have had at least one shot, with about 11,000 New Mexicans being vaccinated daily.
State Human Services Department Secretary Dr. David Scrase provided numbers Wednesday on virus variants seen in the state: 345 such cases, with the United Kingdom’s B.1.1.7 variant the most common, with 158 cases.
Scrase cautioned that the UK variant “has grown from a sliver … to the majority,” but there was “no cause for people to panic.”
DOH Secretary Dr. Tracie Collins said her department will continue to “keep our eye on the data, which we are constantly doing.”
Being vaccinated and mask-wearing are the best ways to stave off the virus, “the best defense against any variant,” Scrase said.
He also urged, in spite of 30 counties in the state now more open with the Turquoise level, to keep masks on in restaurants, except when eating or drinking.
The DOH on Wednesday announced the updated statewide COVID-19 map for the two-week period beginning May 5, with 30 New Mexico counties at the Turquoise Level, where there are the fewest restrictions on commercial and day-to-day activities amid decreased virus risk. Sandoval and Bernalillo counties are among them.
As of May 5, Catron and Valencia) counties are Green and Chaves County remains Yellow; no counties are Red.
Pharmacies are ready
CVS Health is accepting walk-in COVID-19 vaccination patients at CVS Pharmacy locations across the country, including Rio Rancho (on the southwest corner of NM 528 and Southern Boulevard), with no appointment necessary, according to a news release. Same-day scheduling, including appointments as soon as one hour from time of scheduling, is also available at CVS.com.
The company’s COVID-19 vaccine scheduler is updated throughout the day to account for same-day cancellations.
New Mexicans can visit CVS.com to find a CVS Pharmacy location offering vaccines near them.
Walmart and Sam’s Club stores in New Mexico are also offering walk-in and scheduled vaccinations, according to a company news release. To schedule with Walmart or Sam’s Club, visit the DOH vaccination website at vaccinenm.org.
Walmart Pharmacies are open seven days a week, and Sam’s Club Pharmacies are closed only on Sundays.
Primary care providers
The New Mexico departments of Health, Aging and Long-Term Services, and Human Services on May 5 announced a new initiative to recruit primary care providers into the COVID-19 vaccine distribution effort.
“At this point in our COVID-19 vaccine distribution, no group is more important than primary health care providers,” said Collins. “Primary care providers have longstanding relationships with their patients and are ideally placed to hold open, trusting conversations and encourage vaccinations.
“COVID-19 vaccinations are the road map to successfully reopening,” said Scrase.
“We need all of our medical primary care partners to proactively make the vaccine available in their clinics and talk with their patients at every opportunity — in-person and virtual — about the importance of getting vaccinated for COVID-19,” he said.
Biden: Get shots by July 4
Still advocating for Americans to have a Fourth of July as they did in 2019 and before, President Joe Biden announced May 4 he wants 70 percent of American adults to have at least one shot by that holiday.
Chief White House Medical Advisor Anthony Fauci has revised his 60-70 percent vaccinated as reaching herd immunity, but the more-infectious B.1.1.7 variant will raise that percentage.
Americans seeking a local site to get a shot are advised to text their ZIP code to 438829.