ALBUQUERQUE, NM (AP) — Coronavirus cases are rising again in New Mexico, but senior state health officials said Wednesday a return to mask mandates or other widespread public health restrictions is unlikely as infections become milder.
The Minister for Health and Human Services, Dr. David Scrase, during his first briefing on the pandemic in months, said the situation is very different now than it was in the winter. He noted that more tools and treatments are available, and that infections result in far fewer hospitalizations and deaths.
“This is not about infections. It’s about serious illnesses, hospital admissions, deaths. We have to pay attention to that,” he said of the focus. “… Our deaths are a fraction, our hospitalizations are a fraction, and that’s really the sticking point for this state.”
The pandemic took an early toll on New Mexico due to its historic lack of resources, including nurses, and its low ranking among states when it comes to hospital bed capacity.
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Health officials and some elected officials promoted the mandates in hopes of limiting infections and avoiding overloading a system already running at full capacity.
Hospitalizations for COVID-19 infection are currently low and only a small percentage of patients require ventilators, a move toward milder illness from coronavirus infections, state officials said.
State epidemiologist Dr. Christine Ross, who is set to step down from her post in the coming weeks, said it had been a long and difficult time for public health but was happy to report what she called a welcome difference from the severity of previous infections .
“What we’re seeing with this wave is very different from what we’ve seen in the past,” she said, pointing to several factors ranging from the latest variant’s characteristics to what she described as a protective wall B. through vaccination and immunity resulting from infections and in some cases reinfections.
Health officials acknowledged the difficulty in analyzing data now that many positive infection tests done at home go unreported.
While government data showed that vaccinated and boosted people accounted for nearly two-thirds of the COVID-19 cases reported over the past four weeks, Scrase said the numbers should not be viewed as a study of how effective vaccinations might be “because there are too many.” variables there. ”
With treatments now seen as a game changer, Scrase said his next hope is that deaths caused by the virus can be prevented.
New Mexico’s coronavirus death toll is nearing 7,900 people, according to state data.
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