The state took its best shot at getting 60 percent of its population aged 16 and older vaccinated, but when the June 17 deadline arrived, the state was a bit short before that day’s shots were added.
But Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham on Friday confirmed New Mexico will retire its color-coded system and all COVID-19 health restrictions on commercial and day-to-day activity in two weeks, allowing for the thousands of vaccinations administered this week to take full effect, according to a news release from her office.
Now at the Turquoise Level, the state has been broadly “open,” but with restrictions. July 1 will be the day all businesses across the state may again operate at 100 percent of capacity and all limitations on mass gatherings will be gone.
Unvaccinated people are still required to wear masks.
Businesses may mandate additional precautions for employees and/or patrons, advised to follow U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance.
As of midday Friday, the New Mexico Department of Health reported 59.4 percent of eligible New Mexicans had completed their vaccination series, with more data to come.
The state expected data for residents receiving shots from federal entities by today, as well as New Mexicans’ completed vaccination data from Texas. With what state health officials term a “margin of error” in vaccination data, New Mexico is well within its 60 percent target, according to those officials.
“Frankly, we need to be better than 60 percent fully vaccinated,” said Lujan Grisham. “The variants across the globe and in the U.S. present very serious risks to unvaccinated people, even young people.”
As of June 14, Sandoval County vaccinated 65.6 percent of its qualified individuals.
In a June 16 update on the NMDOH Facebook page, Dr. David Scrase, secretary of the state’s Human Services Department, was asked how Texas can be open with less than half of its eligible population vaccinated while New Mexico aimed at 60 percent before fully opening.
Scrase replied, “We’re not using Texas data to determine what’s best for New Mexicans.”
In addition to the sweepstakes the governor started to entice people to get their shots, individuals getting second shots of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines or their single-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine were receiving hundred-dollar bills or $100 gift cards.
During the Facebook update, DOH Secretary Dr. Tracie Collins dispelled myths about the vaccines: They won’t make people magnetic, alter DNA or keep women from having babies.
Variants are still a concern
“We are learning that just receiving the first of two vaccines in a series is not enough to protect you against some of the highly infectious variants,” said Collins. “So if you have had only one Pfizer or Moderna vaccination, please schedule your booster shot today.”
Scrase said the vaccines are effective at preventing the United Kingdom variant, now called the Alpha variant. Another variant from India, determined to be a “variant of concern,” Scrase said, is known as the Delta variant.
Scrase said the Pfizer vaccine — after the second dose — has shown to be 87.9 percent effective against the Delta variant and 93.4 percent effective against the Alpha variant.
According to June 17 data from the DOH, there have been 204,577 COVID-19 cases in the state, with 4,310 deaths reported. In the U.S., the number of fatalities has exceeded 600,000.
Daily positive test cases have ranged between 79 and 161 through June’s first 17 days, with 46 statewide deaths. Just one of those was in Sandoval County, and when it was listed, it was as an “earlier” fatality that hadn’t been recorded before.
COVID-19 hospitalizations ranged from 81 to 107 in June, a far cry from the 900-plus recorded daily in December.
Good news for student-athletes
The governor’s office ruled Thursday that vaccinated student-athletes may compete without being masked.
The New Mexico Activities Association, following the governor’s mandates since the pandemic began in March 2020, will track vaccination data and forward it to the governor’s office when required.
Rio Rancho Public Schools Executive Director of Athletics Bruce Carver told the Observer Friday that 83 percent of Rio Rancho High School’s and 73 percent of Cleveland High School’s spring-sports student-athletes had been vaccinated.