Thirty-two of the state’s 33 counties are mostly open for business now, as the war on the COVID-19 front seems winnable.
On Wednesday, the New Mexico Department of Health announced the updated statewide COVID-19 map now has 32 of the state’s 33 counties at the Turquoise Level, with only Chaves County at the Green Level, progressing from Yellow two weeks ago.
For the first time since the Red-Yellow-Green-Turquoise framework went into effect, there are no counties at the Yellow or Red levels. Counties may still backslide with enhancing risk upon the next biweekly map — due June 2 — if vaccination thresholds are not reached or key health metrics indicate the spread of the virus worsened.
When 60 percent of eligible New Mexicans have been fully vaccinated — as of May 19, the state was at 52.9 percent — the state will graduate out of the color-coded county risk system and remove most pandemic-related restrictions on commercial activities.
Fully vaccinated New Mexicans may opt to set aside their face masks in most environments, per updated U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance, according to state information. Unvaccinated New Mexicans are required to retain masks in public.
Regardless of vaccination status, New Mexicans must adhere to local and commercial requirements regarding masks, and everyone is encouraged to continue COVID-safe practices.
“New Mexicans should continue to get vaccinated at the very first opportunity,” said DOH Secretary Dr. Tracie Collins. “Not only will it hasten the end of the worst of the pandemic; it will enhance counties’ and communities’ ability to safely begin more and more commercial and day-to-day activities without endangering public health.”
New Mexicans may schedule their COVID-19 vaccination at vaccineNM.org.
More and more shots into arms of kids
Young children and teenagers make up an increasing share of New Mexico’s new coronavirus infections, reaching as high as 22 percent of the case total at one point this month, according to data from the DOH.
They made up roughly 17 percent of new infections in the most recent week for which numbers were available, a substantial increase over their percentage for much of the pandemic, when their share routinely hovered close to 10 percent.
According to numbers provided by Collins in a DOH Facebook conference Wednesday, 32,000 children ages 16-18 and almost 24,000 of those ages 12-15 have registered for the vaccine. As of that day, more than half of 16- to 18-year-olds were fully vaccinated.
Collins said 5,500 students ages 16-18 were vaccinated the week of May 3-8.
Younger people are less likely to be hospitalized for COVID-19 and their stays are shorter if they do end up in the hospital, but their share of the caseload also puts extra stress on educators and parents. In fact, schools account for two-thirds of the employers listed on the state’s Rapid Response watch list, reflecting positive tests by students or employees.
Adults 65 and older account for a smaller percentage of infections, falling from about 15 percent of cases in mid-February to around 8 percent in recent weeks, coinciding with vaccination efforts.
(Dan McKay of the Albuquerque Journal contributed to this report.)