New Mexico sees declining COVID-19 cases, preps for uptick

July 14, 2022 GMT

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — COVID-19 cases are on the decline in New Mexico, but state health officials said Thursday they’re expecting an uptick later this summer as the wave hitting more populated areas around the U.S. spreads.

Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. David Scrase provided an update on the pandemic, noting that there have been reinfections as well as breakthrough cases among those who are vaccinated but that infections have been less severe with fewer hospitalizations and deaths.

Scrase said there have been no discussions about reimposing mask mandates since the situation is different than it was in 2020, when more people were dying and hospitals were overwhelmed. He said the virus has evolved, hospitalizations have plateaued in New Mexico, and treatments are readily available.

“We’re relying on New Mexicans to use their own good judgment to protect themselves and their families,” he said.

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Acknowledging the dynamic between freedom and public health, Scrase said he believed that New Mexico did a good job of managing the restrictions early in the pandemic but that state officials don’t feel there’s a need to reinforce those mandates right now.

Some state lawmakers, rural communities, small businesses, parents and others had criticized Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham for her handling of the pandemic early on. Lujan Grisham, who is running for reelection, has repeatedly defended her choices.

With new omicron variants driving up hospital admissions and deaths elsewhere in recent weeks, some states and cities are rethinking their responses. For example, Los Angeles County at the end of the month could become the first major population center to reinstate rules requiring face coverings indoors if trends in hospital admissions continue.

Nationwide, the latest surge is driven by the BA.5 and BA.4 variants, which now account for more than 80% of cases. The variants have shown a remarkable ability to get around the protection offered by vaccination.

In New Mexico, officials said the two variants make up less than half of new cases, but they expect that percentage to grow over the next four weeks.