San Juan County leads state in Beta, Gamma, Delta COVID-19 variants

The COVID-19 delta variant is highly transmissible

Joshua Kellogg
Farmington Daily Times
  • New Mexico Department of Health data on July 12 listed San Juan County having 285 Alpha (B.1.1.17), 28 Gamma (P.1) and 17 Delta (B.1.617.2) COVID-19 cases.
  • It is the classification of San Juan County with substantial transmission that leads the CDC to urge those are fully vaccinated in the county to wear face masks indoors.
  • A majority of San Juan Regional Medical Center patients being admitted to the hospital with COVID-19 are not vaccinated.

FARMINGTON — San Juan County has become the county in New Mexico with the highest number of COVID-19 cases that are tied to the Beta, Gamma and Delta variants of interest.

That news comes as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention classified San Juan County as having substantial level of community transmission of COVID-19, urging the community to wear face masks indoors — including those who are fully vaccinated.

New Mexico Department of Health data on July 12 listed San Juan County having 285 Alpha (B.1.1.17), 28 Gamma (P.1) and 17 Delta (B.1.617.2) COVID-19 cases.

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The state data on July 26 listed the county having 295 Alpha, 28 Gamma and 29 Delta variant cases of COVID-19.

San Juan was outpacing every county including Bernalillo, which on July 26 had 237 Alpha, eight Gamma and 17 Delta variant cases of COVID-19, according to the state health department.

Substantial transmission is listed as at least 50 new cases per 100,000 people in the last week, according to the CDC.

It is the classification of San Juan County with substantial transmission that leads the CDC to urge those are fully vaccinated in the county to wear face masks indoors as the highly contagious Delta variant moves across the U.S.

San Juan Regional Medical Center Chief Medical Officer Robert Underwood told The Daily Times the best thing the community can do is get vaccinated if they haven’t been.

“That’s the only way that we’re really going to in the long run protect individuals, our community and our entire population,” Underwood said. “We recommend masking anyway, because we’re in a substantial risk area.”

San Juan Regional Chief Medical Officer Robert Underwood

Underwood said the Delta variant of COVID-19 is a more highly transmissible version of COVID-19 than previous versions.

The CDC also issued new information showing those who are fully vaccinated and infected by Delta can transmit the virus.

A CDC presentation made public on July 29 showed fully-vaccinated people are three times less likely to catch COVID-19 and 10 times less likely to die than unvaccinated people, according to USA Today.

Underwood said the hospital has seen a small uptick in patients, from three in the previous week to seven on July 29.

Based on previous trends, he believes it could take two to three weeks for an increase of COVID-19 cases to possibly lead to an increase in patients admitted to the hospital who are COVID-19 positive.

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He said that a majority of patients being admitted to the hospital with COVID-19 are not vaccinated.

Underwood noted that the state of New Mexico is seeing an uptick in cases in recent days, as did San Juan County.

The county reported 32 new cases for July 24, 25 and 26 with 5 reported on July 27, then 16 new cases on July 28 and 51 cases on July 29, according to the state health department.

That means the number of cases reported on July 29 were higher than the total count of the previous five days combined. Ten cases were reported on July 30.

All this information comes as students across the state prepare to return back to school.

Farmington Municipal Schools Director of Nursing Services Cathy McDonald raised her concerns earlier this week when speaking about an update to COVID-19 protocols for public schools.

McDonald said that all the precautions need to continue to be in place for COVID-19 best practices. “I’m hoping that we can impress (that) upon our staff and our parents and our community.”

She stressed the pandemic is not over and practices like wearing face masks are key to ensuring staff and students stay safe and to continue allowing in-person learning, as some students spent most of the 2020-2021 school year in remote learning.

“I think it’s important for us to realize the toll of mental health issues with students from isolation and there’s a huge amount of things about social and emotional learning we have to consider,” McDonald said.

Joshua Kellogg covers breaking news for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4627 or via email at jkellogg@daily-times.com.

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