COVID-19 cases high but hospitalizations recede as vaccines open for toddlers

Algernon D'Ammassa
Las Cruces Sun-News

Children as young as 6 months old are now cleared for a free COVID-19 vaccination in the United States, and the first supplies were distributed to providers all over New Mexico on Monday.

The Food and Drug Administration and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention authorized vaccine courses produced by Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech for emergency use in children from 6 months to 5 years in age this week.

New Mexican families can schedule these appointments, as they can for older children and adults eligible for vaccines, online at or by calling 855-600-3453 for English and Spanish service. The state Department of Health noted that while pharmacies led earlier vaccine rollouts, the youngest age group will be seen mostly in primary care or family provider settings.

For the second consecutive week, Grant County has seen the highest concentration of new cases statewide when adjusted for population, at more than 103 positive tests per 100,000 population.

Statewide, the health department reported 6,268 cases from June 13 to June 20, continuing a sharp increase in 7-day averages that has held steady in June, average 6,243 weekly cases so far.

Coronavirus container receiving swab.

Yet daily reported cases are an undercount of infections due to the prevalence of home testing over PCR tests with lab-confirmed results reported to the state Department of Health.

Early in June, acting state Health Secretary Dr. David Scrase told reporters, "We now know that for every one person getting a PCR test, there are — and we don't know the exact number — let's just say three to seven additional people being diagnosed with COVID based on a home test."

Community transmission of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus remained high through most of the state, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, with 30 out of 33 counties at high or substantial rates of infection and low to moderate levels in Colfax, Harding and Lea counties.

New Mexico sees fewer COVID-related ER visits

A more positive trend in the state's latest weekly epidemiological report is a sharp downward turn in emergency department visits with symptoms consistent with COVID-19 disease that include a positive diagnosis.

Moreover, reported hospitalizations for COVID-19 over the week fell to 84 from June 13 to June 20, down from 122 the previous week and the lowest since the end of May. On Thursday the state reported a total of 175 people currently hospitalized with COVID-19, of whom 14 were on ventilators.

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On Thursday, the state reported 926 new cases for the day, bringing the official tally to 555,592, of which 7,891 (or 1.4 percent) had proven fatal.

Besides having a fatality rate considerably higher than influenza, researchers have noted that SARS-CoV-2 infection can result in long-term effects on heart, lung and kidney symptoms. A study by the CDC found that one out of five COVID-19 survivors between the ages of 18 and 64 experienced conditions possibly attributable to COVID-19 infection lasting months or longer from the initial infection, a phenomenon commonly known as "long COVID." Among those 65 or older, the incidence was one in four.

The implications of the data, according to the researchers, was to avoid COVID-19 infection; and, for survivors, routine assessment for post-COVID health problems.

Algernon D'Ammassa can be reached at 575-541-5451, or @AlgernonWrites on Twitter.