The much-anticipated performance of La Pastorela has, for the second year in a row, been called off. The cancellation came in an email from the show’s local sponsor, El Camino Real Historic Trail Site.

“It is with deep regret that we will have to cancel the performance of La Pastorela. We have had too many members sick,” the message stated. “And unfortunately, a couple came down with COVID after that last practice in the Parish Hall here in Socorro.”

Socorro County has seen a dramatic increase in COVID-19 infections over the past week, with daily numbers in double digits. The highest recorded one-day total since the pandemic began was on Dec. 1 with 41 new infections.

The latest data released by the CDC showed that Socorro County’s COVID-19 positivity rate for the seven days ending Dec. 6 was 26.23 percent. The number of new cases in those seven days was 203.

The other seven-day metric – cases per 100,000 – was 1,220.17. Based on the old color-coded system, this would keep Socorro County in the red category.

According to the CDC website, 10,301 people in Socorro County 12-and-over are fully vaccinated, which is 72.4 percent of the county’s 12-and-over population. And 61.9 percent of the county’s total population.

Although no new deaths were reported in Socorro County as of Friday, Dec. 3, there were five new COVID-19 hospitalizations in the seven-day period.

Statewide, 74.8 percent of New Mexicans 18-and-over have completed the initial two-dose series, with 25.8 percent receiving a booster shot.

In the 12-17 age group, 55.9 percent are fully vaccinated.

For ages 5-11 years old – the group eligible for the smaller dose Pfizer vaccine, 19.3 percent have received the first dose.

In Socorro County, 9,353 residents have completed their vaccination series.

During a briefing on the virus on December 2, acting Department of Health Secretary Dr. David Scrase said a study from Los Alamos labs found people were four times more likely to have a breakthrough case if they were at least six months removed from when they got vaccinated. “That’s why you’re hearing us talk about boosters so much,” he said.

Last month the state made all adults eligible for a booster dose six months after they were vaccinated.

State health officials were cautiously optimistic that New Mexico, which currently has one of the worst per capita cases in the U.S., will start having a downward trend in the next few weeks.

The state’s epidemiologist, Christine Ross, said, “We’re not where we want to be and we certainly hope to see this begin to trend downward.”

Ninety percent of the ICU beds are in a hospital currently operating under crisis standards of care, meaning they may be forced to ration care, but Scrase said some models project the number of hospitalizations in the state to start falling in the coming weeks.

Meanwhile, last Thursday an amended emergency public health order was issued by the Department of Health that will effectively require many workers to receive a booster shot as soon as they are eligible to protect against the ongoing spread of COVID-19.

New Mexico’s state public health policies have for months required that many workers in higher-risk environments – including workers in all health care and congregate-care settings – be vaccinated. Public school workers and state employees, meanwhile, must submit to weekly COVID-19 testing if they are not vaccinated.

Those workers must receive a booster dose no later than January 17, 2022, or within four weeks of becoming eligible.

The change comes as the World Health Organization and governments across the globe express serious concern about a newly identified variant, omicron, that may spread a more transmissible version of the disease that has already killed several thousand New Mexicans and seriously impacted the health of tens of thousands more.

Although experts caution that much remains unknown about the new variant, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention this week amplified its recommendation on COVID-19 booster shots, saying all vaccinated adults “should” receive one either six months after completing a Pfizer or Moderna series and two months after a Johnson & Johnson shot.

“New Mexico is doing well with boosters, better than the national average, but we still must do better,” Scrase said. “Our hospitals are overfull, and the spread of the virus continues to exacerbate the issue. New Mexico isn’t an island, and we can’t prevent the new variant from arriving here. So we must defend ourselves with the tools we know to work. Masks, vaccines, and personal decisions that serve to protect the collective well-being.”

The statewide requirement that face masks be worn in all indoor public spaces remains in place.