New Mexico health officials expect first Omicron case soon

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The New Mexico Department of Health is preparing for the eventual arrival of the Omicron variant in the state.

New Mexico is one of 30 states that have not yet reported a case of Omicron. Dr. David Scrase, NMDOH acting secretary, said he expects the state will have its first case of the COVID-19 variant by the end of this week or by next week.

State health leaders are encouraging the public to get their booster shots as soon as possible.

At this time, about 25% of COVID-19 cases are breakthrough cases – meaning that group has been vaccinated. Scrase said that the booster shot can really make a difference in protection against the virus.

"We have determined that if you had your primary series vaccine for Pfizer or Moderna more than six months ago, that would be June 1, then your risk of having a breakthrough case right now is four times higher than those vaccinated subsequently," Scrase said.

Starting next week, there will be booster clinics at Expo New Mexico in Albuquerque and at the fairgrounds in Santa Fe.

As of Wednesday, nearly 700 patients are hospitalized in New Mexico with the virus. NMDOH officials said that Tuesday was the worst day hospitals have seen so far – there were only 13 ICU beds available statewide. According to the latest data, emergency rooms across New Mexico are seeing the highest number of people waiting for a bed.

Scrase said those 13 ICU beds probably filled up within an hour of that number being released. He also said there have even been reports of people dying in emergency waiting rooms over the past year.