Thanks to the efforts of the City of Rio Rancho, UNM Sandoval Regional Medical Center and the New Mexico Department of Health, 1,700 people selected through the DOH registration system received Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines Friday at the Rio Rancho Events Center. They’ll get “booster” shots March 19 at the events center. “Many hours of hard work have gone into establishing a vaccination site at the Rio Rancho Events Center, and we couldn’t be happier to partner with all the organizations involved,” said Mayor Gregg Hull. SRMC’s Abby Camacho said the event was “a feeling of positivity and hope.” She urged people to register at Gary Herron photo.

Medical experts communicating in a Zoom conference with the media on Feb. 22 happily reported COVID-19 numbers — positive tests, hospitalizations and deaths — were decreasing, and their facilities are opening again to visitors, although not for COVID patients or those hospitalized awaiting test results.
Lately, visitors to women giving birth and end-of-life patients were all that had been permitted; many people, including several of the medical experts, have waited a long time to hug some of their loved ones. But even with COVID areas reduced for “regular” patients, the hospitals are still above capacity.
“I think we should continue to be cautiously optimistic,” said CHRISTUS St. Vincent Regional Medical Center Chief Medical Officer Dr. David Gonzales, “and not let our guard down.”
The demand for vaccines still out paces the supply in New Mexico, as is the case elsewhere in the U.S. The horrific weather from Texas into the Northeast states slowed distribution, too.
But, the experts said, it’s hard to schedule mass-vaccination events when there’s no idea of how much of the vaccine the state can expect, and how it will be divided.
“We know how stressful it is to wait,” Presbyterian Healthcare Services Medical Director Dr. Denise Gonzales said.

By the numbers
In New Mexico, where about 0.7 percent (3,624) of the nation’s deaths have occurred, the Department of Health announced Feb. 23 that the state had administered more than 500,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine, and that the state consistently ranks among the three-fastest states in the country for vaccine administration, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
As of Feb. 22, the state had partially vaccinated more than 16.5 percent of New Mexicans, and fully vaccinated more than 8 percent of New Mexicans — percentages among the highest in the country.
“New Mexicans can be proud: thanks to a first-in-the-nation registration system and a dedicated network of health care providers and volunteers across our state, we are vaccinating our population extraordinarily quickly,” said DOH Secretary Dr. Tracie Collins.
Collins said Feb. 25 that the state is expecting 77,720 doses this week, a 7 percent increase over doses received last week.
She said the DOH will increase vaccinations for seniors by more than 10 percent over the next two weeks, and urged those with questions to dial 1-855-600-3453. Press 0 for vaccine information, 4 for tech support.
Here are the decreasing numbers for New Mexico referred to earlier:
• Positive tests: Averaging 1,014 per day for the state and 64.4 in Sandoval County in January, those numbers dropped to 393 per day Feb. 1-25 in the state, and 27.6 for that same period in the county.
• Hospitalizations: After an average of 650 per day in January, the number dropped to fewer than 500 Jan. 31-Feb. 7, and then under 400 since Feb. 8.
• Deaths: An average of about 106 per day in the state in January, and an average of 17.2 per day from Feb. 1-25. After 50 deaths in Sandoval County in January, there were 19 fatalities through Feb. 25.