Feds, state pause Johnson & Johnson vaccine administration

The state of New Mexico paused its distribution of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine after reports of possibly related, very rare blood clots. The state made the announcement on Tuesday after recommendations by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the federal Food and Drug Administration citing reports of six “rare and severe” blood clots out of the 6.8 million doses of the vaccine nationwide, a rate of less than one in a million. “New Mexico – like the federal government – is acting out of an abundance of caution,” New Mexico Department of Health Secretary Dr. Tracie Collins said in a statement. “As we learn more, we will share that information.” 

The DOH Twitter account noted that the cases represent a tiny fraction of the Johnson & Johnson doses. “This move shows that the federal oversight process of vaccine safety and effectiveness is working,” according to DOH.

Half of New Mexico adults have received at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose

New Mexico has now given at least one shot of a COVID-19 vaccine to half of its population age 16 or older, according to the state’s Health Secretary. Dr. Tracie Collins, the secretary of the state Department of Health, said that in addition to the nearly 50 percent of people who have received at least one shot, 31 percent of New Mexicans are fully vaccinated, either through two shots of the Moderna or Pfizer vaccines or one shot of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. The state’s numbers show 49.4 percent of New Mexicans aged 16 or older with at least one dose and 31.7 percent fully vaccinated. As of Wednesday’s update, 829,765 New Mexicans had received at least one dose and 533,288 were fully vaccinated. This includes 114,211 doses administered in the last seven days from the state.

Recap of New Mexico COVID-19 news (4/2/21 edition)

This morning recap of COVID-19 news from New Mexico is available in a free email every Friday. Sign up here. See all of our COVID-19 coverage here. As of Thursday, the state Department of Health reported 191,945 total cases of COVID-19 and 3,942 deaths related to the disease. As of Thursday, 96 individuals were hospitalized for COVID-19, the fewest since Oct. 5.However, DOH reported 297 cases on Thursday and 277 cases on Wednesday, the first two days with more than 250 cases since March 10.

NM to open vaccines to all residents age 16+ on Monday

Beginning on Monday, April 5, all New Mexicans over the age of 16 will be eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, entering the “phase 2” of the state’s vaccine distribution plan. This comes as New Mexico remains the leader on COVID-19 vaccine administration. As of Tuesday’s vaccination numbers, 44.2 percent of New Mexicans aged 16 or older have received at least one dose and 27.3 percent are fully vaccinated (either with the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine or both shots of the Moderna or Pfizer vaccines). Even so, the state will continue to prioritize those in phases 1A, New Mexicans age 75 or older and those age 60 or older with a chronic condition. “President [Joe] Biden directed states to make all adults eligible for vaccine by May 1.

NM has no ‘red’ tier counties; most of state turquoise or green

New Mexico hit a new milestone during the COVID-19 pandemic: No counties are currently in the “red” tier of restrictions, the most restrictive conditions. 

With Wednesday’s updates, which uses data from the previous two weeks to show which level of restrictions each county sits in, 13 counties are in the “turquoise” level, ten are in green and ten are in yellow. Counties in the “turquoise” level are those which have been in the green level for two consecutive two-week terms.

Among the high population counties in the state, San Juan and Santa Fe counties reached the turquoise level, while Bernalillo County, Sandoval County and Doña Ana County each are at the yellow level. The state measures whether, in the previous two week period, counties have 8 or more cases per 100,000 residents or an average percent of positive COVID-19 tests results greater than 5 percent. Human Services Department Secretary Dr. David Scrase said in a press conference on Wednesday that the state was evaluating its use of positive test percentage, as that continues to remain at very low levels throughout much of the state. Counties at the less-restrictive tiers are able to have more businesses open, including more indoor dining, retail spaces and recreational facilities.

So you’re vaccinated against COVID. Now what?

n March 22, 2021

As you surely know, this country’s covid vaccination effort has been plagued by major birth pangs: registration snafus, poor communication, faulty data and a scant supply of vaccine — all exacerbated by inequitable allocation, alleged political favoritism and unseemly jockeying for shots. Still, as of Friday, over 118 million shots had gone into arms, and about 42 million people, 12.6% of the nation’s population, had been fully vaccinated. Nearly one-quarter of U.S. residents have had at least one dose. The vaccine rollout is finally ramping up — just as the deadly winter surge has ended, dramatically reducing infection rates, hospitalizations and deaths. President Joe Biden has promised enough vaccine for every adult in the country by the end of May and dangled the hope of a return to semi-normalcy by July 4.

State expands COVID-19 vaccine to nearly all residents

The state of New Mexico announced on Friday that it would expand who is eligible to receive a dose of a COVID-19 vaccine to phases 1B and 1C, which includes virtually all New Mexicans ages 16 or older. 

The new eligibility includes frontline essential workers, residents of congregate care facilities, New Mexicans aged 60 and older and other essential workers. Those who were eligible in previous phases will continue to be eligible, and the state says this means 1,620,000 New Mexicans out of the 1,680,605 New Mexicans 16 years of age or older. “By expanding the pool of New Mexicans eligible for vaccine, we can keep the momentum going and ensure that New Mexico remains one of the nation’s vaccination leaders,” Department of Health Secretary Dr. Tracie Collins said in a statement. “At the same time, we will redouble our efforts to reach and vaccinate seniors and others in the early phases who have not yet received their shots.”

DOH said this was made possible because the state had provided at least one shot to 60 percent of those previously eligible. This includes about 73 percent of New Mexico residents aged 75 or older.

Recap of New Mexico COVID-19 news (3/12/21 edition): NM came close to rationing care

In case you didn’t see the past two days: The COVID-19 recap will be moving to a weekly format next week. 

Thursday was the one-year anniversary of the first case of COVID-19 in New Mexico and the anniversary of the first public health emergency. While the tone of a press conference with cabinet-level officials (see links below for coverage) was largely optimistica year into the pandemic, Human Services Department Secretary Dr. David Scrase mentioned his “hardest day,” December 14. The state had been looking at ways to expand capacity since late November, as cases and hospitalizations continued to grow. But the hospitalizations just kept growing. And the idea of instituting crisis standards of care and ration of care loomed as a real possibility.

One year of COVID-19 in New Mexico

Shortly before noon on March 11, 2020, the New Mexico Department of Health announced a public health emergency for the growing spread of COVID-19. The same day, the World Health Organization declared the outbreak a  pandemic. In New Mexico, the governor and health officials held an in-person press conference in the Roundhouse, with reporters in the room. “If you are sick, stay home. Wash your hands, use antibacterial [soap],” Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said.

Recap of New Mexico COVID-19 news (3/11/21 edition)

See all of our COVID-19 coverage here. We began the COVID-19 recap at NM Political Report on March 11 of last year. Since then, we have published hundreds of editions of the recap, including seven days a week for several weeks, then for most weekdays following. In recent weeks, the daily recaps have been getting shorter and shorter, as COVID-19 news starts to slow down. Starting next week, we will go to a weekly format, with a post each Friday recapping the week’s news from around the state.