If you’re looking for a place to work, as well as willing and able, there are more than 80,000 worker vacancies in the state, says New Mexico Department of Workforce Solutions Acting Secretary Ricky Serna, who provided that information to lead “Day 575” of the New Mexico Department of Health’s COVID media advisory on the DOH’s Facebook page.

It was the first time the latest number of infections and advice to wear a mask and get vaccinated didn’t lead off the semi-regular press conference.

Now, with insurance benefits for the unemployed ending or soon about to — Serna said about 50,000 claimants came off those rolls on Sept. 5 — jobs of all descriptions are available for those who may have been out of work since the pandemic began in March 2020, and for anyone else seeking work.

According to the latest information he had, Serna said the unemployment rate in the U.S. is 5.2 percent; it is 7.2 percent in New Mexico, and 6.2 percent in Sandoval County.

Leading the way are positions in the health care and social assistance field, where there are more than 13,000 vacancies, with educational services (7,875) and professional, scientific and technical services (6,302) second and third on the chart.

Serna advised those seeking employment to visit any of the 23 Workforce Connection Centers in the state, including one in Rio Rancho at 4061 Ridge Rock Road (771-2160), which are “one-stop shops,” geared to aid employers and job-seekers.

Serna also advised people to be wary of scams and said Workforce Connections never sends texts asking for Social Security numbers, passwords or other private information.

State remains among leaders in vaccination rates
Dr. Laura Parajón, DOH deputy secretary, was pleased to report 80.4 percent of those ages 18 and older have received at least one COVID-19 shot, and 71.1 percent are fully vaccinated, and 64.4 percent of those in the 12-17 age group have had one shot, with 55.3 percent of that demographic fully vaccinated.

“October will be busy,” Parajón said, with ongoing discussions by the Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee meetings; that group is likely, she said, to recommend immunizations to start in late October or early November for those in the 5-11 age group. Vaccines were deemed “safe and effective,” she said, after 2,768 participants were tested.

In a survey of parents with children in that age group, Parajón said, 34 percent said they’d have their child(ren) vaccinated right away, while 24 percent said “definitely not.” Those percentages, from parents with children under 5 years of age, respectively, were 23 percent and 35 percent.

As for booster doses for eligible New Mexicans, Parajón said more than 21,000 shots have been given since Sept. 24.

“The unvaccinated are overwhelming our health care system,” noted Dr. David Scrase, acting cabinet secretary of the DOH, noting a recent positive-test case rate of 7.9 percent, above the state’s “target” of 7.5 percent.

“We are not decreasing the number of cases and that is a huge problem,” said Scrase, pointing out that only 17 intensive-care unit hospital beds were available for COVID-19 patients, with 67 medical/surgical beds still available as of Oct. 6.

Later on Wednesday, the latest DOH numbers came out: 838 new cases in the state, including 65 in Sandoval County; 336 hospitalizations and 10 more deaths, with none in Sandoval County, which has four deaths already this month.

Gary Herron | Observer staff writer