With statewide cases taking a sharp increase over the last two weeks – up to over 3,000 in one single day – due in part to the Omicron variant, the Department of Health has renewed public health orders, including a requirement to wear masks in public spaces and vaccination requirements for some workers.
Socorro County has also been posting higher than expected numbers two days last week; 49 on Wednesday and 42 on Thursday.
The public health orders come as case numbers reach highs not seen since 2020 and as hospitals around the state continue to operate under crisis standards of care. The orders also underscore important updated guidelines which have reduced the timeline for isolation and quarantine from ten days to five, with the inclusion of a well-fitting mask for an additional five days.
These updates align with the CDC recently-reduced COVID guidelines for isolation (when you are sick or infected with COVID) and quarantine from ten days to five days, as well as additional CDC guidance around the importance of mask-wearing to prevent transmission.
This guidance is intended for the general population, including workplaces, although the shorter isolation/quarantine recommendation does not apply to K-12.
The vast majority of COVID-19-related hospitalizations and deaths occur among the small number of unvaccinated New Mexicans, and DOH encourages New Mexicans 5 years and older to stay up to date on their vaccines and boosters.
On Thursday the governor and DOH confirmed that federal resources are being sent to New Mexico to relieve overburdened hospital staff in the Albuquerque metro region. The action follows the state’s prior request for additional federal staffing support. As Omicron-fueled case counts continue to rise, the combination of federal medical teams and contracted staff coordinated by the state will provide relief to staff combating a surge in Omicron variant infections.
“Our hospitals have been overfilled since August and we are this week experiencing a new but expected surge in hospitalizations as a result of the Omicron variant,” said Dr. David R. Scrase, Acting Department of Health Cabinet Secretary. “The combination of federal assistance and the 500 contracted healthcare personnel brought in by the Department of Health are helping us through this very difficult time. Please, everyone, get your booster or get a first or second dose if you haven’t yet. It is the primary way that each of us can support those who are there 24/7 to provide for our medical needs in this time of crisis.”
The 25-person Department of Defense Medium Medical Team is expected to be in New Mexico this week. Once deployed, the team will be on-site for 30 days to assist medical staff at UNM Hospital in Albuquerque.
This deployment of federal resources comes as a result of the state’s 2021 request to the Biden administration for additional staffing support and represents the third MMT to be deployed to New Mexico. Two Navy MMTs have served the state in the northwest region at the San Juan Regional Medical Center over the last 45 days under the Dual Status Command of Brigadier General Jamison Herrera of the New Mexico National Guard.
New Mexicans who are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 or have been exposed to a COVID-positive person should get tested if possible. Testing sites are listed at findatestNM.org; New Mexicans can also order free at-home tests through Vault, though test supplies are currently limited.
Symptoms of COVID-19 include fever, cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, muscle pain, headache, sore throat, chills, repeated shaking with chills, gastrointestinal illness, and new loss of taste or smell.
DOH continues to recommend limited travel and exposure to large crowds. Additionally, masking is required for all individuals when indoors.