Taos County is bucking the national and statewide trend, with a COVID-19 case rate (cases per 100,000 people per week) that dropped 32 percent from last week. Nationally, cases were up 16 percent, and up 36 percent across New Mexico during the same time period.
The county reported 17 new cases of COVID-19 from Aug. 10-16, according to town of Taos GIS Analyst Tim Corner. That number is down from 25 cases the week before, bringing the total number of cases to 1,847.
Taos County has the second lowest case rate in the state. However, it's still high enough to be considered a "substantial transmission level," according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
There were no additional deaths reported among Taos County residents last week. That total remains at 56.
The New Mexico Department of Health reports that the state has seen more than 220,000 cases of COVID-19 since the pandemic began in March 2020, with a death toll of 4,451. Johns Hopkins University reports that more than 622,000 people have died in the U.S. due to COVID-19.
In recent weeks, the CDC recommended that even vaccinated persons should wear a mask indoors to combat the increasing case numbers of the rapidly spreading Delta variant.
On Friday (Aug. 13) the CDC recommended an additional dose of an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine for moderately to severely immunocompromised people.
"Emerging data suggest some people with compromised immune systems do not always build the same level of immunity compared to people who are not immunocompromised," said CDC Director Rochelle Walensky in a statement.
"Fully vaccinated immunocompromised people have accounted for a large proportion of hospitalized breakthrough cases (40-44 percent). Immunocompromised people who are infected with SARS CoV-2 are also more likely to transmit the virus to household contacts," she said.
The CDC notes, however, vaccine breakthrough cases to be a small percentage of fully vaccinated people who still get COVID-19 if they are exposed to the virus that causes it.
While people who have been vaccinated are much less likely to get sick, it can still happen. It's also possible that some fully vaccinated people might have infections but not have symptoms (asymptomatic infections).
Tuesday (Aug. 17), the Biden Administration announced its plan to recommend booster vaccines for most Americans, beginning Sept. 20.
The booster vaccines would be an additional layer of protection for those who have received vaccines eight months ago and would be offered to healthcare professionals and seniors first, just as the initial round of vaccines were prioritized.
The new policy would hinge on the Food and Drug Administration's authorization of the new shots.
Vaccine boosters would mean a third shot for those who received the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines, and a second shot for those who received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
Vaccines are not enough
Taos County residents (aged 18+) are 79 percent fully vaccinated and 89 percent partially vaccinated, according to Corner. For the state as a whole, 66 percent are fully vaccinated and 75 percent are partially vaccinated. For younger New Mexicans (aged 12-17), 42 percent are fully vaccinated and 55 percent are partially vaccinated.
Also on Tuesday (Aug. 17), New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham announced the state "will temporarily re-implement a statewide requirement that face masks be worn in all public indoor spaces, with only limited exceptions, and regardless of vaccination status, to stem the state's rising tide of COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations."
The governor also announced in a statement that "the state will issue a requirement for all workers in certain medical close-contact congregate settings - including hospitals, nursing homes, juvenile justice facilities, rehabilitation facilities, state correctional facilities and more - to be vaccinated against COVID-19."
The state issued a requirement that all employees at private, public and charter schools in New Mexico "either be vaccinated against COVID-19 or otherwise submit to COVID-19 testing on a weekly basis."
"We have several effective tools that work to prevent serious illness and death at this stage of this pandemic," said Lujan Grisham. "The two most relevant at this moment are vaccines and face masks."
"With a more infectious and more dangerous strain of COVID-19 on the rise, face masks are once again necessary to ensure the efficacy of the vaccine is not diminished by a mutating virus, and to ensure our hospitals are not overwhelmed by a projected surge of new infections."