Health officials spoke on Wednesday during a press conference about the rollout of the new Johnson & Johnson vaccine, a new emphasis on certain areas of the state for new doses and even the decision by Texas’ governor to end that state’s mask mandate and capacity restrictions.
This came ahead of the state announcing 359 new cases of COVID-19 and thirteen additional deaths related to the disease. Nearly 40 of the new cases, 37, were among inmates of the Lea County Correctional Facility, which has seen hundreds of new cases in the last few days.
Department of Health Secretary Tracie Collins said the state received 17,200 doses of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine, but would receive few, if any, vaccines in the coming weeks until the company can manufacture more doses.
While she did not have the names of the counties available immediately, she said that the vaccines would be sent to ten counties with low vaccine coverage and high ratings on the CDC’s Social Vulnerability Index.
New Mexico will order 87,800 COVID-19 vaccine doses next week, and Collins continued to say the state could administer many more doses than it receives—New Mexico has the highest vaccine administration rate of any state in the nation.
As of Wednesday, the state vaccine dashboard reported that providers have administered 609,099 total doses out of 668,595 sent by the federal government. Of these, 389,246 were first doses and 219,853 were second doses.
This does not include any of the 172,350 doses received by the Veterans Administration, Indian Health Service or Bureau of Prisons, which administer doses directly.
In all, 678,532 New Mexicans have registered to sign up for a vaccination.
Human Services Department Secretary Dr. David Scrase said modeling from Los Alamos National Laboratory found that vaccinations are now lowering daily COVID-19 incidence by approximately 50 percent. The modeling found that, without vaccinations, cases would have been increasing in recent weeks.
But he also noted that the weeks-long drop in cases has “leveled off.”
This, he said, meant “we’re not all riding the same wave from red to yellow and yellow to green.”
And while U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich asked the White House to consider delaying second shots to focus on getting more people first shots, the state is not considering such a move for the Moderna or Pfizer vaccines, which received emergency use authorization from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
“We are in agreement that we do not want to just give everyone a first shot. We want to complete the series,” Collins said.
Texas’ decision to undo most COVID-19 restrictions was also mentioned.
“Please don’t take your lead from another state,” Scrase told New Mexicans.
In New Mexico, he said the modeling team does “not believe that this is the time to back off on any of those procedures that restrain the spread of the virus.”
The head of the University of Texas COVID-19 Modeling Consortium, Dr. Lauren Ancel Meyers, expressed skepticism over the governor’s announcement.
“The fact that things are headed in the right direction doesn’t mean we have succeeded in eradicating the risk,” she told the Associated Press.
Texas’ decision, he said, will likely result in counties along the border with New Mexico to have increased cases in coming weeks.
State Epidemiologist Dr. Christin Ross said they are not only keeping a close eye on Texas, but also Arizona and Colorado.
“We have access to data, we can look at their testing rates, we look at their test positivity rates, we look at their case rates,” she said.
As of Wednesday, New Mexico has found 185,898 total cases of COVID-19 and 3,753 deaths related to the disease.
Also as of Wednesday, the state reported 195 people were hospitalized for COVID-19 in New Mexico. This could include those from other states who were hospitalized in New Mexico for COVID-19, but would not include New Mexicans who are hospitalized in other states.
The number of those who have recovered from COVID-19 reached 150,168.