State sees fewer COVID-19 cases as Delta surge wanes

The state’s current surge of COVID-19 cases, driven by the Delta variant, appears to be slowing down in recent weeks, top health officials said in a press conference on Wednesday. Hospitalizations are still at a very high rate, with 375 people hospitalized for COVID-19 as of Wednesday, and acting Health Secretary Dr. David Scrase said they are still going through a “crunch of volume”—but will likely avoid the need to implement crisis standards of care if hospitalizations follow falling COVID-19 totals. One large reason why is the increasing number of vaccinations. As of Wednesday, the state reported that 79 percent of all New Mexicans 18 or older had received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, while 69.2 percent had completed their vaccination series (either with both shots of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine or the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine). And among those 12-17, 62.5 percent had received at least one dose and 51.6 percent were fully vaccinated.

State issues warnings on ivermectin use

The state warned residents about the dangers of using ivermectin without a prescription and that there is no medical proof that it helps treat COVID-19. In a press conference earlier this week, acting Department of Health Secretary Dr. David Scrase said he was told that there was one death related to an overdose of ivermectin. There have been nationwide reports of people using ivermectin, including those for veterinary use, in an attempt to ward off COVID-19 or treat the symptoms of COVID-19. Scrase called the belief in the use of ivermectin to treat the disease a “cult following.”

“The animal products are very, very concentrated. You don’t have to be a veterinarian, or a physician to know that the dose you might give a horse for a parasite infection would be much larger than what you’d give a human being.”

Overdoses of ivermectin, which is approved for use in humans for things like river blindness and an infection of a roundworm known as Strongyloides stercoralis, can cause seizures, comas and even death.

COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations remain high

Modeling from Los Alamos National Labs for the state of New Mexico shows that the current surge of COVID-19 cases could peak soon. That’s according to state epidemiologist Dr. Christine Ross, who was one of three top state health officials who spoke during a press conference on Wednesday. “We all need to continue doing our part with all of the mitigation measures, so masking indoors, avoiding crowds, every eligible person, please get out and get a vaccine, etc.,” she said. She said it was a “possible plateau” but the state would need more data to make sure it wasn’t a blip in the data. Vaccinations remained a key point for Ross and other officials.

40 million people rely on the Colorado River. It’s drying up fast.

ProPublica is a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative newsroom. Sign up for The Big Story newsletter to receive stories like this one in your inbox.Series: Killing the Colorado The Water Crisis in the West

This story was originally published by ProPublica

On a 110-degree day several years ago, surrounded by piles of sand and rock in the desert outside of Las Vegas, I stepped into a yellow cage large enough to fit three standing adults and was lowered 600 feet through a black hole into the ground. There, at the bottom, amid pooling water and dripping rock, was an enormous machine driving a cone-shaped drill bit into the earth. The machine was carving a cavernous, 3-mile tunnel beneath the bottom of the nation’s largest freshwater reservoir, Lake Mead. Lake Mead, a reservoir formed by the construction of the Hoover Dam in the 1930s, is one of the most important pieces of infrastructure on the Colorado River, supplying fresh water to Nevada, California, Arizona and Mexico.

ICUs full as COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations grow

The growing number of COVID-19 cases and the strain on hospitals is a concern in New Mexico, with crisis standards of care likely to come in a week. So much so that currently there are currently fifty people on a waitlist to find an ICU bed, Acting Department of Health Secretary Dr. David Scrase said in a press conference on Wednesday. “It’s a completely new phenomenon,” Scrase said, who also said those on the waiting list are very sick individuals who need to be in the ICU. “It’s now. It’s temporary and I think it’s well-meaning people trying not to close off all hope, but it’s moving slowly,” Scrase said.

Majority of voters back mask mandates

A majority of New Mexico voters support a mandate to wear masks indoors, an action that Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and the state Department of Health took place last week a day after a poll conducted for NM Political Report ended. An even larger majority thought schoolchildren under the age of 12 should be required to wear masks in schools. The poll, conducted by Public Policy Polling for NM Political Report, found that 53 percent of New Mexico voters thought the state should require masks to be worn indoors, while 40 percent disagreed. Even more—55 percent thought that businesses should require masks for employees and customers, while 36 percent disagreed. This all is in the background of a slight majority, 51 percent, approving of Lujan Grisham’s COVID-19 response.

Slight majority of voters approve of governor’s, president’s handling of COVID-19

A poll of New Mexico voters showed that 51 percent approved of both Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and President Joe Biden’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. The poll, conducted by Public Policy Polling for NM Political Report, found that 44 percent disapproved of Biden’s handling of the pandemic, while just 41 percent disapproved of Lujan Grisham’s. Both are Democrats. Related: Poll: Lujan Grisham at 46% approval, 45% disapproval

Lujan Grisham has been in charge of New Mexico throughout the pandemic and instituted lockdowns, mask mandates and other orders to slow the spread of COVID-19 beginning last March. Last week, the governor announced a new mask mandate for public indoor spaces.

Poll: Lujan Grisham at 46% approval, 45% disapproval

A new poll finds that the governor’s approval rating is below 50 percent, but still slightly more people approve of her job than disapprove. The poll, conducted by Public Policy Polling for NM Political Report, found that 46 percent of New Mexico voters approve of Michelle Lujan Grisham’s job performance as governor compared to 45 percent who disapprove. This is very similar to the 47 percent who approve of President Joe Biden’s job performance and 45 percent who disapprove. NM Political Report will release more results from the poll throughout the week and the full results on Wednesday. Lujan Grisham is up for reelection in 2022, and a number of Republican candidates have already announced their intention to run.

State hits 75% of adult population with at least one shot

The New Mexico Department of Health announced the state reached another major vaccination threshold, with 75 percent of residents age 18 or older having received at least one shot of the COVID-19 vaccine. New Mexico health officials have been pushing for more New Mexicans to become vaccinated to slow the spread of COVID-19. As of Wednesday, 66 percent of Mexicans age 18 or older completed their vaccination series (either with the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine or both shots of the Moderna or Pfizer vaccines). “This is an important milestone – three-quarters of New Mexico adults have now received at least one dose of vaccine, and nearly two-thirds have completed their vaccination series,” DOH Acting Secretary Dr. David R. Scrase said. 

According to the Mayo Clinic, 66.7 percent of New Mexicans have received at least one dose, the eighth-most of any state, and 58.5 percent are fully vaccinated, the 11th-most of any state. Like in states throughout the country, COVID-19 has spread quickly because of the spread of the Delta variant. 

Also on Wednesday, the state reported 878 new cases of COVID-19 in the state, with four additional recent deaths related to COVID-19.

Mask mandate for public, indoor spaces returns; vaccination requirements expanded

In an effort to curb the rising number of COVID-19 cases, the governor announced a mask mandate for all public indoor spaces, regardless of vaccination status, which she was hopeful would be enough to blunt the spread of the COVID-19 Delta variant. “We’re going to use masks and vaccines to blunt the spread of COVID and see if we can’t rebalance where we are as a state, particularly given the Delta variant,” Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said during a press conference on Tuesday. The mask mandate will go into place on Friday, Aug. 20 and last until at least Sept. 15.