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[{"transcript":"two minutes and I don't know if doctors Graces back yet doesn't sound like it. Oh there he is awesome. Okay two minutes and then I'll start letting the reporters in and we'll have a bit of a delay um as they file in. I'm gonna let the reporters in now. Good afternoon and welcome to today's press conference. Thank you for joining us. My name is jodi Mcginnis Porter and I'll be moderated. Today's Covid 19 day 715 Press update. The press conference will last for about 45 minutes which includes a short presentation from doctors Grace and Q. And A. From our media partners. When we get to the Q. And a portion. If the reporter would please raise your hand if you'd like to ask a question and keep it raised We will lower it for you will go through one round of questions and if we have time we'll go to round two I'll turn it over now to dr Grace to go through his presentation. Good afternoon everybody. It's good to be back. Let me just changed my view. Perfect. And up I want to start today by introducing some new people and new roles wonderful whom you've already heard from. So I'll start with jodi as you know Jody and I I have worked together for three years over at the human services department jodi has been heavily heavily involved in coverage and and help with communications in the pandemic from the hse decide in the governor's office now with the O. H. And she's decided um that the next career challenge ahead of her is coming to the Department of Health and not just helping us move to a new level of communication regarding the pandemic but to begin to look into and start communicating a lot more with all of you about all of the other amazing programs and services that our department provides for the people of new Mexico. So you'll be hearing more from jodi. Um I told jodi that the main disadvantage of coming up to work at the Department of Health would be that she'd still have to work with me but she said that wouldn't bother at all. So jodi's here today and heading this up next is Andrea Lawrence moving from right to laugh. Andrea is also a state employee. She has that the tourism department where she's done marketing there for quite some time. She is coming over as an official new position in the Department of Health as the Director of marketing. We haven't had one of those before when I started here last year. I thought that was a really critical addition that we needed to make. Andrew brings a wealth of experience and and also her boss, her boss's boss, jen Schroeder Schroeder is really just done an amazing job helping our department with the marketing around vaccines testing a lot of our messaging as well for this pandemic. And so we're looking forward to Andrea stepping in taking those responsibilities on and then also starting to tell you all more about great programs and services we provided then lastly another person you'll be seeing more of Jose Acosta Jose applied for the job of chief medical officer at the Department of Health and turns out in the interview process, discovered that he's one of my neighbors. He lives about a mile and a half away and proceed as interestingly, all three of these folks started on monday. So we have three new positions. Dr Acosta has a wonderful background and experience and being a chief medical officer. He was last at the very large Loma linda Veterans Administration Hospital in uh in California has been had positions of a lot of very high responsibility in the U. S. Navy from which he recently completed his career. And so we're delighted to have him on board as well. And over the holidays I was trying to reflect on what what's the next thing I could do to make our state more effective in the pandemic. And I realized it was really hiring great people into all these empty positions. So we're just about full up now and a few more decisions to make. But these folks will be contacted and I'm sure you'll be seeing more of them and hearing more of them as time goes on. So thanks for indulging me and uh introducing some of our newest folks. Let's go into the summary of the pandemic and I got to talk to a number of reporters last week about. Hey two weeks ago, doctors Grace, you told us we weren't ready for the end of the mask mandate. And then one week and one day later, all of a sudden we are, what happened. And I think these graphs actually tell the story better than anything else. The red boxes indicate what's happened over the past two week period of time. So you can see two weeks ago, um, are We had 13,432 cases over the previous week. And uh, this past week we've had not quite a third of that, but a little more than a third of that, sorry, but not much more than a third of that. Hospitalizations have dropped by more than half as well in that period of time. And uh, death rates are about the same. Despite what you see in the graph, there's a lag that we've talked about many times. And again, uh, we're now over six, we're at 6790 for new mexicans who have died from coronavirus. Every one of those people is important and um, lived a unique and important life and they leave behind families and others who are grieving. And uh, each time we talk about mortality, we like to pause for just a moment and remember those folks who are, did succumb to the disease and we're going to talk more about additional vulnerable people in new Mexico that I and my staff at wh are worried about as we go on. So you can see particularly in cases and hospitalizations, a very significant improvement next slide. Another question reporters asked me last week is, uh, if we're not going to be focusing as much on cases anymore and we're focusing on more serious disease, what are the metrics around that? That will be looking at it. Here's one that we've been tracking since November of 2020 and that's every week. The hospitals when things aren't looking good, get together and rank their ability to respond to the current volume in the pandemic. And if you're interested and you go to the mat website, you can see the scoring matrix that they use every week, but it includes things like stamping and equipment and all the things hospitals need To run when there are over 100 capacity. And so you can see, we spent a very brief amount of time. It was only about a month in november december last year in crisis standards of care was declared for only a month and then it expired. We declared a suppressive standards of care about here. Um, and uh, early october I believe it was and that has been going for quite some time when we rescinded the mask mandate for everybody, but health care workers. Um, we did it. Um, we knew that we still like crisis standards of care and effect our plan currently is just to let that expire. Some of our crisis standards of care designation has helped us get federal resources and we want to continue to maintain those. But I think we are, Most hospitals are now really feeling like they're out of the woods. We still have hospitals at 100% capacity. We still plan to try to support those hospitals as we are able with additional staffing resources. But workforce still is our key issue here in new Mexico and something. We're still working with our hospital partners and others to try to resolve. Next slide as further evidence for those who have been watching these press briefings for a year or two. You know, we've been showing these maps of how many ICU and general medical surgical beds we have. If you've been watching regularly over the past six months, you know that that total number of beds for ICU beds in red there on the right on the left side of the side Brianna. Maybe you can highlight that. Is that 34? Typically over the past four months it's been a single digit or in the teens. So we're really opening up some ICU beds which is a relief. That number represents about 10% of our icu beds. Which is what I think a healthy system in normal times should have open. And so we can see that both on the I. C. U. Side and on the general bedside were double the highest. We've had in quite some time that we're doing really well and having room for covid patients. What does this mean for you and me? It means if one of us has a heart attack there will be an ICU bed for us at least somewhere in new Mexico. And if you remember from previous weeks there were very few ICU beds in the south part of the state. And those are starting to open up a little bit more this week as well. So great news on the hospital front hospitals still struggling with being able to obtain enough staff and also struggling with being over capacity still. But we're off out of the worst of it. I think I want to thank our modeling team for giving us this couple of weeks of advance notice and once again being right on where cases and hospitalizations were headed next slide please gonna shift over now to just a brief comment about the taking away the mask mandate except for healthcare facilities and that was actually at the strong request of healthcare facilities that we continue to have that. So what that means is we now have a choice. The responsibility of deciding how to keep ourselves safe. Our families safe and our community safe has moved from state government to the individual. Um Some people are certainly very glad to have that responsibility and other people are puzzled. I know how to work through that but just to make sure we're all clear masks are just as effective today as they were two weeks ago. They still provide substantial for protection. And n 95 masks, I can give you 85% reduction in your chances of getting covid all of the things being equal. And so we still have the case in New Mexico that a business or a school board or uh, you know, a community organization can still make their own rules for their own organization. And some may require masks to come in. And I just want to ask everyone in New Mexico to respect that. We also want to talk a little bit about immuno compromised individuals today. It's a big, big concern on my part, on my staff at the Department of Health. What will the impact be on immuno compromised people and other vulnerable people when we no longer have a mask mandate? Well, of course, uh, if a vulnerable person goes out into an indoor setting in a room full of people without wearing masks, even if they're wearing one, then of course there chances are going to be higher than they would have been going into a room where everyone was wearing a mask. So that's just obvious I think. But I'm gonna show you another couple sides because we're doing an outreach today, immuno compromised people to try to get them the resources they need in particular. We've said this before. But now, more importantly than ever, if you are a person at high risk, upgrade your mask, We're a kn 95 95 mm hmm. Again, make sure it fits snugly against your face. It should move in and out when you breathe. That's how, you know, it's a tight fit. And um, I would recommend at this point in time picking up a surgical mask or better still a K. In 95 or better still an N 95 particularly if you're immuno suppressed. Not everybody Can wear an N- 95 mask all day. We understand that. So you want the the mask you can wear that fits the tightest but that you can keep on all day if you are at high risk. Next slide. Now, specifically with respect to immuno compromised individuals, um, we sent out a press release this morning. We've texted all of the people who registered in the vaccine database as being immuno compromised this morning. And also yesterday we sent a message out to all our providers warning them that we were going to do this. But there's a lot of different categories for immuno suppression. But in particular, if you're getting chemotherapy, you got an organ transplant or bone marrow transplant. If you have an inborn uh, immune problem. And this is a short list here. There's lots of them ah, if you have an advanced or untreated infection that could affect your immune system. If you're taking pregnancy on a lot of new mexicans take pregnancy or if you're on certain other interestingly monoclonal antibody drugs for things like rheumatoid arthritis and uh, and uh some cancer treatments as well. All roommates, logic diseases, you probably are at higher risk and you may well be immuno suppressed. The best way to confirm that is to talk of course with your treating provider about that and get them to weigh in. But if you fall into any of these categories, we're asking you all to take extra protection and that's why all the folks here are wearing a mask in our little info graphic. Next slide please Brianna. Um, Evia shield. We talked about briefly, we haven't featured it at a press conference. It's a longer acting monoclonal antibody that had scientific studies bolsters the immunity of the immuno suppressed. I think we've talked about the fact before that if you are immuno suppressed, you're not likely to mount the same kind of antibody response to two doses of the vaccine. And I'll talk about the vaccine in the second as well. But it's an effective treatment that will dramatically lower the risk of getting covid and and the blue and the graph on the right the blue bars or how much of the of every shield we have in stock and the red bars how much we're giving. And we'd like to see that red bar go up in the coming weeks to try to cover all the immuno suppressed people in new Mexico. So they get that extra coverage, particularly after the mask mandate has been taken back for all the healthcare facilities. The other thing that's been a recent change is initially you have to be an oncologist or a transplant surgeon or a rheumatologist to prescribe this. But of course there are lots of people who are in rural areas who don't we don't have those specialties. And so um now any any prescribing provider in New Mexico can prescribe the drug. And we're also in the middle of the outreach to all providers to encourage them to sign up to prescribe this medication for more vulnerable people or immuno suppressed there's something else. And so we've got masks and we've got every show on the next side. Just a reminder that the C. D. C. Is now up to recommending four doses for immunocompromised individuals. So you might remember this in august when they came out and said we're not recommending a booster. We're recommending a third dose which was the same vaccine as a booster. But they called it a third dose. And so we had a lot of immuno suppressed people. Sign up and and take that third dose of the vaccine. And then more recently they came out and said okay the clock's ticking. It's been four months since uh immuno suppressed people got their third dose. Now you can get a booster. They even recommended after three months again to try to keep stimulating the immune system of immuno suppressed people with repeat repeat challenge is to get them to build up their immunities. So again D. O. H. Has no restrictions on this. You can go online to register for the vaccine, you can talk to your you know your providers about whether they're providing it in the office and if they aren't you should encourage them to do so like we are and I think we're gonna Actually between these three things better masking and more. Um and and making sure even though compromise folks are up to speed on vaccines and used to have a shield, I think we can dramatically lower the risk to our most vulnerable people here in new Mexico. And speaking of our most vulnerable people in New Mexico, I sort of feel like can we go to the next slide Brianna? I feel like my wife and I between the two of us have this covered as you know she's an oncology nurse and runs an oncology program in Albuquerque and I'm a geriatrician. The other really really high risk group that this came out of the news About 10 days ago is the risk of hospitalization but particularly mortality in older individuals. So this crap Has three colors. The red is the risk and unvaccinated people. The light blue or medium blue is royal blue is that I don't know fully vaccinated without a booster and then the dark blue which you can barely see on the top two but you can see in the bottom one is fully vaccinated with a booster those and so you know once You know if you're over 65 you're three times more likely to die if you get covid, I mean that includes me and so I continue to be careful and I continue to choose to where I'm at a mask. I it used to be that I was telling myself I had to wear a mask but now I get to choose whether or not I wear a mask Um and then but over 75 chances of dying if you get COVID 140 times Higher if you're unvaccinated over age 85 It's 340 times more likely. So striking statistics would encourage all older individuals, particularly if you have risk factors to continue to protect yourself and you know don't throw off your mask and go to a rock concert and slosh around in the mosh pit ah anytime soon. Despite the decrease in case counts. Remember we're like, you know about as high as we were prior to august and so we want to make sure that everyone is being careful taking care of themselves. So particularly you may not suppressed and older people please exercise question next slide and I'm gonna speed up to get to the end up. You know, we've been taking you through one by one, various vaccination reports Brianna, are you gonna bring that up or you want me to share my screen, I can do it either way. Alright go ahead. Um And this is a good one. You know we have slides from this in almost every presentation. I'm not gonna spend time on every page and we're gonna start on page three which is over the last four weeks. What are we seeing in terms of ah of cases, hospitalizations and deaths which run from left to right and not fully vaccinated people in the orange, fully vaccinated without a booster in the blue and fully vaccinated with the booster in the green. So one thing that shows us uh like at first you might think vaccines don't work but actually of the rates that will show you in a minute or way way higher for all three of these things. If you're unvaccinated and vaccinated and higher if you're simply vaccinated without a booster and if you have the booster and so um but now we're down to your risk of testing positive. It's only about Um 1.3 times higher than if you're vaccinated without a booster. Um And you can see it's two times higher if you have a booster and then the risk of hospitalization and death. 2 to 3 times higher without vaccine than with. And then down below if you like math. Which I do all the numbers are there of the different rates and you can see the colossal Difference. uh rate 1.587 people who weren't fully vaccinated. I have uh mm hmm. Sorry, I'm doing this wrong. It is Yeah. of people who are not fully vaccinated. Got covid in a month period of time 2.2 with the full vaccination. 1.5 without. So let's go to one or two other pages. Go to Page four. This is just that rolling average t straight per 100,000 population. It's another version of this. But I want you to pay attention to things. Notice that the distance between the orange line for unvaccinated and the blue line for people who've had the full vaccine. It's not very far apart on the other end of drop from blue to green, which is vaccine with booster is pretty big. If you go to the next slide though, this is ah hospitalization rate and you can see a much bigger gap. And so what that means is that while people who have been vaccinated are still getting cases, their chances of being hospitalized are much lower with the vaccine and much much lower with the booster. Um, maybe the next, let's go to page 11 and then we'll get back and finish up here. Lots of valuable information in here. We encourage you. We had a lot of questions and this is just there is a slight difference. It looks like Moderna is now clearly as a a bit of a demonstrate a ble difference and breakthrough case rates then Fizer and johnson and johnson person. The Moderna vaccine is about twice as strong initially. So it has more side effects then, uh, fighter. All my shots so far. I've been fighter, but it's just helpful. We have a great Department of health and a wonderful epidemiology team that can produce so much data. So let's go back and do the last slide or two and we'll be done ah last night. So the cartoon is by Riccardo KT. He's from santo Domingo pueblo, a very popular native american cartoonist that I've worked with that you just did in the past. And he's saying when I'm out and about, I still wear my face mask. So when I get home I can do this. And he's there saying hi mom and she's saying hello son. And they don't have their, my son. So appreciate that sentiment. She's one of those high risk people. I'm as a geriatrician. I can tell you she's 79 years old I think in that picture. And so so her family is being extra careful for her. So bottom line hospitals. Finally seeing some relief in our intent is to let the crisis standards of care Designation. Uh, just expire when it comes to in March two, it is still a requirement to wear a mask in hospital and other congregate settings. So please just respect that. Please respect the people working in those settings. Don't give them extra work by walking in without a mask. Just know that that's part of it and nobody wants to bring in covered uh, in a visitation situation. And this is what we're doing to make sure that that doesn't happen. Also, you know, everybody gets to make their own choice now. And I'm so I'm hoping that we don't immediately draw conclusions or develop harsh opinions because we're because somebody is doing something that we don't do. And I'm still wearing my mask and all the settings that wear my mask before. For the most part, it's a choice I make. I'm older. I've got some risk factors. I also know that I work with, uh, you know, immuno suppressed people. So does my wife. And so I'm extra careful the resources online to find testing and actually free testing in your community still out there. Uh, we'll let you know when we're ready for 1\/4 vaccine dose for none. You cannot suppress. People were waiting for that data to come in. And then just lastly, you know, I think that taking the mask mandate away is really going to open up a whole new set of discussions for people in new Mexico and that we haven't had to have. And I know from my emails that there are people out there with extremely strong in a netflix herbal opinions on both sides of this. And part of me worries that what new Mexico needs right now is for people to freely be able to talk to each other without judgment without accusation without recrimination for choices they make or positions they might advocate at a school board meeting or at the workplace in the workplace meeting. And so I'm kind of hoping that we can use that wonderful new Mexico inclusiveness. That was part of the reason I moved here actually, once again. And that we can all make some sort of commitment to in these discussions. Start with being more curious and less accusatory. I mean, start by seeking to fully understand a different point of view before making sure others here are your own point of view. You know, having compassion. This is a tough time for the State. We're going through a whole new phase of this. People will have different opinions and um but what we have to accomplish is the state really goes beyond our own individual needs to the needs of others, the need needs of a community. And you know, and lastly, I think being empathic, I mean, we don't we don't know if that person wearing a mask as an immune disorder or multiple risk factors. And I think being understanding not being apathetic, but being empathetic. I think we'll get us through. But I think it's gonna be kind of a challenging period of time as we make rules in our homes and restaurants and businesses and and school boards and in schools and and the like across the state. And uh just remember as miss manners once wisely said it doesn't cost anything to be nice to people. And so Jody. Um I'm done. And I would like to extend the Q. And A time because I talked longer than usual. Let's say we'll go to one. Okay Georgia. You're on your own. Thank you. I was talking and didn't know. Um you go in the order of the hands that I see raised. We'll start with lou Davis ceo and next we'll go to Jared econ brock. Uh lou you are a muted Hi thank you. Can you hear me? You let us know your outlet. I wasn't sure. I'm a producer on new Mexico. PBS. Thanks for taking my question. Uh First of all I I know you said at the beginning that the data shows that this was a prudent move at this point to end the mask mandate. But to be clear, were you consulted by the governor before she made this decision? In anyway. Um I was really consulted by the governor before she made this decision in every way. You know, we've had an ongoing conversation about this since the beginning of the pandemic. I was over at the mansion um couple of weeks ago this morning Uh at 7:30 uh talking with her about various options going forward and what we would need to see. Um So yeah, I mean I taught her all the time about the pandemic. She's still very involved, very interested and so not exactly sure I understand the genesis of that question. But yeah, she loves the data. She loves to hear what's going on. We text her an update every day about what's happening with the pandemic. So she was in the loop and completely and I was too thanks. Okay. Next. We'll go to Jared and after that we'll go to Selena Madrid Jared. You should be unnoted. All right, can you hear me? We can hear you. All right, wonderful. My name's Jared Evan rick. I'm with K. U. And M. And um by many estimations some of the immune suppressed people that you've heard or are discussing. Um Sorry there. I'm just getting distracted by my environment. Um Let me put this aside. By many estimations, most new Mexicans would know somebody that is at increased risk of complications have exposed to COVID-19. Not to mention that nobody wants long Covid Only six weeks ago, everybody was supposed to get n 95 masks that they now apparently do not need in most settings. What do you say to vulnerable new mexicans and those that love and care for them that feel thrown under the bus by lifting the mask mandate early to return to normal and learn to live with Covid even as data about a new variant and previous variants are still being sifted with the existing mandate that would have expired March 4th extending just extended just three weeks ago. That would have allowed school districts caretakers, healthcare facilities more time to plan and hospitals more time to catch up. What do you say to these vulnerable new mexicans and overworked healthcare workers? Well, first I gotta just say that. I don't agree with the premise of your question. It was, you know, if we were in court, my attorney would stand up and say leading question your honor. So I just want to call that out. The question defines the decision as being premature. I don't agree with that. I think the Department of Health attempts to do what we do for the benefit of the most People at any given point of time. So not only do we all know someone who is at higher risk? I mean, we probably a lot of us live with those people. I mean every person over 65 is at a higher risk. Everybody with high blood pressure, everyone who's obese. And so this is universal. And uh this is not about uh requiring all new mexicans to wear a mask until we don't have any more vulnerable people. It's about trying to time the decision the best we can. I've already gone over what I say to give me no competent immuno compromised people. But I can say it again. Where's your mask wearing a 95 mask when you go out to make sure you you're up to date on your vaccines which for you, maybe 1\/4 vaccine and preferably an M. R. N. A. This time. Uh Get every shield. Talk with your provider. See if you're a candidate for every shield which will also protect people. This the pandemic we're in right now Jared is a very very different pandemic than we were uh two years ago. And so we have a lot more tools now than we had then. And I think comparisons of why we're doing this today when we didn't do it before. I'm not sure that those take into consideration all the variables that are really out there. But to finish up what I say to immuno suppressed and other high risk individuals as we care about you. We contacted your providers yesterday we sent you a text today pointing you to a website that will show you what the resources you have available. And again this is not a decision. Uh And again I kind of resent the throwing people under the bus. Ah And I'd ask you uh you might not have you might have been distracted but um you might not have heard what I said about being more charitable and seeking to understand and not being accusatory. And I think that advice you know should apply to both of us as well in the press conference. So thank you. Alright next we're gonna go with Selena Madrid and after Selena will go to Julia Goldberg. Selena. Your unneeded. Hi there. Um This is Selina Madrid with K. Foxx 14 and cbs four out of las cruces. New Mexico. You might have already said this but can immuno compromised. Get both. Evie shelled and a second booster. And then how will the D. O. H. Make sure people who aren't amino compromised aren't saying they are so they can get the extra dose of the vaccine. Yes we recommend that immuno compromised. People get both, get that first shot and that and that's exactly what the CDC recommends. And we think that scientific data showing the efficacy of the the fourth shot and and particularly heavy shield are strong enough that we recommend both. So the answer to that is both. And then in terms we are not policing who gets vaccines. There was some of that going on with our gradual rollout of the vaccine when supply was very limited. But now supply is abundant and we kind of actually have confidence in the people of New Mexico to do the right thing. And I don't feel like we have need to have a role to make sure people don't get an extra vaccine here. There. The other thing is and we learned this the hard way early on that there's a lot of unique circumstances. They're rare. But you know for example if you have a bone marrow transplant, you're starting over and you haven't as far as your immune system knows you've had no vaccines. And so in theory there could be somebody who got a bone marrow transplant today. And we are already has had four vaccines and would be eligible for for more And so we're not taking it upon ourselves to try to regulate that or control that. And the other reason why is because we don't want there to be any barriers. We wanted to make it as easy as we can for providers to have the vaccine supply in their office to be able to give it to people and and to give them that booster when it comes to for everybody or is due now for people right while they're in the office. So we don't have a system in place for that. All right. Next we'll go to Julia Goldberg from the santa fe reporter. And after Julia is Austin fisher Julia Euron muted. You can ask your question. Thank you, Geri thank you. Dr Grace um last summer when the health department started offering the third visitor to folks were immuno compromised. Uh D. O. H. Told me they had a little over 30,000 folks who had marked immuno compromised on their vaccine registry profiles. And that jumped to around 57,000 when you added the cancer registrants. I'm wondering that's a decent ballpark number. And I'm also wondering you mentioned that every shelf is an ample supply for them nationally. I just read it was in short supply and some states were actually having lotteries through doctor's offices. So I wondered if why why it was ample here and then. I'm sorry Jody. I know this sounds like three questions but I just want to clarify its prophylactic. Guess it's the only prophylactic measure. Okay. Alright. Those are my three. But only one actual question. Um that was the first question again. Oh, the ballpark numbers. That's what I'm using. You know, for example, uh this morning when we sent the text out to immunocompromised people, we did not send it to people who had cancer because many folks who filled out um The vaccine firm initially if they had cancer 20 years ago, put that down as something that they had. It may be a slight risk factor, but not to the degree of someone who has cancer and is undergoing active treatment who should have at least and hopefully will in the future checked out both cancer and immuno suppression. So I think those are reasonable numbers. I think the comments today are really mainly towards communism suppressed people. And we debated that with that yesterday because we were worried that, you know, I had a skin cancer somewhere. Can't forget which side of my face, you know, eight years ago, but I'm fine. I didn't check that box. We don't want didn't want to confuse people. Um, a lot of people who might not be eligible. So yeah, I think 30 is about writing on light. I think of it. It's like one day app percent of the population and then on the every shield. I think part of the non church in New Mexico is needing to get more people to get it. So if we had a shortage at this point, if we started facing a shortage, I would think that would be a wonderful problem to have. And then the governor and her her staff in Washington would start advocating for a better supply for new Mexico. So I think right now we just have to ramp up. But every person because it's prophylactic because it can prevent you from actually getting a serious infection. I hope that every immuno suppressed person in New Mexico will pursue this and then we'll work on the I don't see a lottery in our future, but I could see something a little uh like if we had to have a waiting list, we could certainly do that. And we've got a great pharmacy staff at the Department of Health who I know could help us manage that effectively. Alright next we're going to go to Austin fisher and after Austin it'll be matt Holland's head. Um Austin you are. I'm trying to a new you just he just got muted. Can you hear me now? We can we can hear you, Could you let us know your media outlet? Yes, I'm with source new Mexico and thank you so much for taking our questions. Doctors Grace. Um so my question is really basic, what is the scientific rationale for removing mask mandates um I think that the reason that we implemented a mask mandate in the in the first place was trying to protect and preserve our hospital resources which was the critical the critical research shortage. And when we uh um when we saw that basically drop off of a cliff in cases and hospitalizations and hospitals confirmed that with their own self evaluation. Um we decided that um it was time to remove the mandate. It isn't, I don't know that. I agree that you need scientific evidence to remove a mandate. I mean I think the role of government is to step in when necessary and critical situations and also to step back when you're out of that difficult period. So um as I said earlier, master just as effective now as they were two weeks ago, most people should really consider based on the people in their family and contacts and the like how careful they need to be. Um and I'm not really changing my mask routine at all yet. Thank you. Okay next we're going to go to matt Holland said hi dr Grace, can you hear me? Yes. Okay. I appreciate you taking the time. So I'm with the Rio Rancho Observer. Um seeing the, seeing how much cases have decreased in recent weeks. Coc the steep rise be met with the equally steep fall I guess in pairing that with I guess the vaccination numbers I guess. Do you see anything with all that data to maybe suggest that those lower numbers? Well guess I guess just stay down like that like and maybe potentially we could get closer to that endemics stage or do you think it's too early to determine whether they'll stay lower or not? Yeah. Well, um, unfortunately the virus itself has not yet surrendered. And so I'm assuming that we will see another way so far for the big waves we had, we've had alpha delta and omicron. There's been exactly six months between the rise of those. And so if that plays out again, which there is no guarantee I would expect to see an uptick in cases due to a new variant In the June or July timeframe. And as I said earlier, if we do have that big uptick in cases and we have 5000 cases a day. But we have an efficient system for getting oral treatments. The people that will lower their risk of hospitalization and death By 90%. Then it's a completely different ballgame right? 5000 cases. Lots of testing going on. Lots of people staying home from work But only 80 people in the hospital and set up 700. So I think we should assume that the virus will continue to evolve. Then we should assume there will be other waves coming through and then we can hope and pray and wish that those will be a little less severe omicron was less severe than than delta was certainly in terms of hospitalizations and deaths. Although the surge we saw was because there were so many more cases of omicron. So yeah I don't think we're looking at the very end of this but I do think we're all going to get a break here or at least I'm certainly hoping we do. I've encouraged every single person I've worked with in both departments to get there, take a vacation you know in the next couple of months and get away and get restored and refreshed. But I'm kind of hoping that the next time the virus comes to town that will have additional two tools. Maybe another version of the vaccine that's more global and not Very specific. Those oral asians like packs loaded. That will have handy and abundant supply. We're supposed to have 10 million more doses nationally. Bye May or so that we'll have those ready. And so that while we might have a lot of cases we won't have the same kind of uh burden of severe disease that we've had so far. Thanks. Good question. Alright next we're gonna go to Brittany Bayed at KRQe and after Brittany. We'll go to Ryan bottle at the Albuquerque Journal Brittany. You should be in muted. Hello, Can you all hear me? Yes. Okay wonderful. Thank you so much for taking the time today. So my questions are actually surrounding uh teen pregnancy. So a bit of a different wheelhouse of the department of health but tied to the pandemic. So um and I had submitted these but you know what do you think of the latest numbers on the current team birth rate in New Mexico? And do you think the pandemic has impacted the number of teen births or pregnancies? Um Given it looks you know similar ish to past years and then I also seen on instagram that the D. O. H. Is seeking um requests for more programs more education to prevent teen pregnancy. Is there any hope for that? Any kind of vision you um would like to our education you would like to um you know to spread to the teens of new Mexico. And those are those are my questions. Thank you. Yeah thanks so much on that. I ah I think it's a really good question. It's kind of fun to answer a question that actually covers the human services department, the Medicaid program, the Department of Health sort of. I feel like I'm in my element with us. So thanks for asking. I think we don't have the numbers for last year yet on teen pregnancies. So we don't, those numbers aren't in yet but in previous years there's been a steady downward trend with less and less teen pregnancies over time. Uh the Medicaid program in a series of interventions that started I think in 2018 started making long acting reversible contraception. It's like an injection that women get that acts as a safe effective birth control device and we introduced that as a benefit. Then we increase the payments so that providers would go through the extra training and time and things that were needed to do that. And as we've seen the usage of law it's called lark long acting reversible contraception. As we've seen that go up over time we've seen the number of pregnancies actually decrease. Um But it you know not contraception. Uh chemical contraception isn't for everybody. And so the D. O. H. Still really wants to do everything we possibly can to educate work within communities work with teen peers and the like. And I think the recent RPS and activity is more based on uh just our ongoing programs that we have and not a specific brand new initiative. And last I do want to say this because in your written question you mentioned this very very tragic incident um in Hobbs where a baby was found in a a trash container. There is a law in new Mexico that allows any parent with any child uh less than 90 days old to bring that child to a safe spot of fire station police station hospital. And if that burn of caring for a young child that has become too overwhelming D. O. H. The state local local governments stand ready to help you with that and you can bring that that baby in. And so um you know every life is important, every life is valuable and we want to do everything we can to help young parents, you may not have gotten the parenting classes and education that could have could have benefited them. So thanks for that question. Okay next we're gonna go to Ryan Botel at the Albuquerque Journal and then after Ryan we'll have chris mckee from care. QB News. Hi dr stress. This is Ryan at the Journal. Thanks for taking our questions. Um I wanted to ask you about the same chart that you brought up the vaccination Ferson vaccination report from the last four weeks. Um You pointed out how that data shows that the vaccines are still very effective. But if you look at that report, that specific report of just the last four weeks for the past um three weeks when we've had it with booster and just fully vaccinated worked in. It does it has kind of changed in the last three weeks with boosted individuals and vaccinated individuals taking up a greater percentage of serious cases. Um What do you just kind of make of that? Do you have concerns about just how long lasting these vaccines are and just kind of comment on that a little bit for me if you would. Thank you. I think it's a really good question and I'm really glad I just want to bring this up to show people. I think what you're saying is if you follow these like this is since the beginning of the pandemic. Since even before there were boosters and you didn't get a rough sense of these proportions here. But if you look just in the past four weeks, these blue and green proportions are bigger and you know what, what's going on with that? And I think I'm not surprised at all. I think, you know what we're seeing is shifts in the coronavirus happening every six months that we tend to see much less frequently for the flu. And recall that the flu shot that hopefully all of us get every fall. It only lasts for about five months. And it's act it's a different flu shot every year because it's tailored to what's coming through the community at that particular point in time, technically it's tailored to the flu cases they saw in the winter in Australia, which and end up southeast asia compared to the summer where where we're at at the time. And so so it doesn't surprise me that a vaccine would become less and less effective as the virus evolves more and shifts from as we saw that initial strains to alpha to delta to a micron. So I'm not surprised by that at all. I think the talk and the scientific communities, can we do better on the vaccines? It's not an accident that the virus mutates in a way to avoid the vaccine, right? Because if a vaccine covers biologically, you know, three different angles of the virus, the next virus will go for two of those angles, like we saw with Macron and etcetera. So I think it's going to be an ongoing fight. And I think the talk about a universal vaccine, the deals with a part of the virus that isn't as likely to mutate is one promising route that we're watching closely. But yeah, I hope to see more evolution of the vaccines and their specificity over the next six months. And I think too, that I think in the long run that we're gonna have to get to that as well. So the tech covid booster that we get in the fall is aimed at those newly emerging variants that are more likely to spread than the older variants. So I wish it wasn't true, but I'm not really at all surprised. Thanks. Okay, next we have chris mckee from KRQE News and I believe that's everyone who's asked the first question will take second questions and unless there is somebody else who hasn't had a first question, um, we can take those chris you should be able to unmute yourself. Okay. Hello? Hello. Thank you very much. Um, hopefully you guys can hear me. Um okay, great. Um, I had a question to expand a little bit upon the the thoughts, feelings, emotions of of those in the immuno compromised community. Um, I think it certainly we can read into twitter and comments that people post and understand that there may be some concern out there amongst those groups. But I did want to ask you doctors, Grace, I mean, have have you heard directly from maybe any groups or doctors who specifically work with a lot of immuno compromised patients who maybe raised concerns about the the changes or the direction the state was going with the mask mandate. I guess my point is is that I think there perhaps is maybe an assumption out there that everybody is upset about this. And I guess I'm wondering how much of a consideration was that before the decision? Were there any sort of dialogue or discussion that you can shed some light on chris I'm worried this is a trick question. And if I say, I haven't heard from anyone that by the time this is over We'll have 10,000 emails, but I didn't intend it that way. So I know you didn't, you didn't. I think that, you know, one thing to realize is immuno suppressed. People have been dealing with, they're higher risk long before the pandemic started. So, um I have patients who are immuno suppressed that have been coming to my office for a really long time with a mask on. Um, and the like, and so this is not new. I think I've heard from a couple of immuno suppressed people who said, you know what, what are the tools that we have available to help them, You know, go through this transition. But um I think I think the main thing that can help immuno suppressed people in new Mexico isn't really a public health order requiring requiring us all to be masked forever. It's actually what would help them the most kindness, compassion awareness, acceptance, that some of us are going to have to continue to take all those same old precautions we did during the pan, you know, during the worst of the pandemic and even before the pandemic. So uh you know, we talked about this with the medical advisory team somewhat. I think there wasn't a huge pressure there. There was a lot of concern about having, you know, individuals visiting in the hospitals without being our son. But I think we have, like I said earlier, new tools With every shell with an additional vaccine. Um, and we within 95 mask frankly, um to help further protect people and then if we could just Sprinkle a little new Mexico acceptance and kindness on top of that, I think things will go well thank you. And and Julia, you asked about 30,000 and I did. I did get some information. We texted 40,000 people who fell into the immuno suppressed category. Okay? We have about four minutes left. I don't think we can get to all the second questions. Um, but I'll take them in order first we have Austin fisher and then Julia Goldberg, can you hear me again? Go ahead. Austin. Yeah. Um, I I just wanted to try to understand. Um, so with the with the mask mandate lifted, what state wide non pharmaceutical interventions are left in new Mexico, I understand the you know, the state home order And the shelter in place order from 2020 are not in effect. So are there any other N. P. I. S that are still in effect? Well remember that there's all of those non pharmacologic interventions are still effective. Masters still effective. Distancing is still effective staying home for God's sakes when you're sick, don't go to work, don't go to the grocery, start, stay home. Um So they're all still effective in terms of mandates, uh we do have a crisis standards of care. A designation in place which isn't so much mandate is it is permissive to hospitals to also declare their state and have the state provide insurance coverage for particular providers. We still have a mask mandate in place for um hospitals, congregate care settings, nursing homes, you know, detention, um prisons and correctional facilities. State ones that is so those are still in place. But I think all the recommendations are also still good. You know, be aware of your own risks. Be aware of the risk in the community, you know, dress appropriately. Um If whether if there are more cases in your community or you're more vulnerable. Everyone, you know, those folks should take extra precautions. Pandemic is by no means over our case count is still high. And so, but I think your question is really about mandates and in my view and in the view of many, many strongly worded emails I get um people feel like the state is in a position now to transfer the responsibility for decision making about personal interventions and protections for one's own self family community to individuals, families and communities and away from the state. And I well I'm not a particularly political person. I do I actually agree with that perspective. Mhm. Okay. We have two hands left and that will end after that first will be julie Goldberg from the santa fe reporter and then loop the video Julia. You should be able to unmute yourself. Yeah. Thanks Jerry. Dr. Space at the start of the month on February nine, the Health Department said that people had used less than 20% of the world treatments that were available and wondering if there's been more uptick for people revere and if not I was just have read nationally this is the case and that some medical folks are attributing it to sort of all the moving factors with text. Covid has interactions and mull new career you can't use if your pregnant and etcetera etcetera. So I wondered if you had some thoughts on that. Yeah. You know Julia did not see that grab because we've shifted our cadence a little bit. I'll see it tomorrow. We'll get it to you um we are seeing an uptake, you know to be honest when we had a short supply uh we did we did put like a criteria list in place and that creates a barrier. Ah We did take that away a couple of weeks ago we are encouraging more provider use and we've worked with the medical society and the primary care association and other provider groups to try to get the word out more and more and more. I think step one is removing all barriers and like I said to your earlier question taking away those barriers and then being uh considering when we get to the point where we have more demand than supply a good problem to have rather than under treating people. So I'll see that tomorrow and also if you wanted more background are pharmacists are really good and can give you more information but I think I think we ought we were seeing an uptick from what I heard earlier this week. I just haven't seen the data yet. Thank you. Alright last question is from lou de video. You should be able to admit yourself luke. Yeah thank you. Uh luda video from new Mexico PBS again thanks again. Also um with the burden of determining a mask mandate for schools now shifted to local school governing bodies. Um My quick question is are they equipped to have that decision put on them whether through like medical knowledge or really authority in the eyes of parents and all of that we've seen in other states protests and things when a school does an active a mandate without advice from a local health body backing it up. Is is are there any recommendations out there that you could that anyone is providing for these districts I guess. Yeah. You know I was talking with Massa who was who was on the call today but he hasn't asked a question. I talked to him over the weekend and I said you know if I were a reporter I'd be showing up at school board meetings because I think there's gonna be a lot of really really interesting discussions. And then shortly after that all my friends who went to their own school board meetings called me to tell me how those meetings went. So um I think is an individual our individual school board members fully prepared to lead a discussion between highly opposing parties about how to reconcile and come up with a common uh you know approach like and I've had a really long executive career and I'm not sure I'm prepared for that. So I don't know how you exactly fully prepared for people. I think it's going to involve those things. I talked about about listening and seeking to understand others And being curious. I do think that there's ample recommendations from the public Education Department about what works and from the C. D. C. The folks can rely on. I'm told by friends that some of that information is introduced into the discussions at school board meetings and that you know what I would term misinformation like non scientifically accurate information is introduced as well. But I do think the new Mexico people have it within themselves to figure this out. I think it'll be messy at first. Um you know if we're in the teenage years of learning to live with Covid right now and if you have a teenager at home it starts out pretty messy. And then I think it was Mark Twain that said, you know it's amazing when I went away to school, my parents have been such idiots. And 10 years later when I went back home I couldn't believe how much they'd learned. And um you know I think it's we're all that situation where this is new. We haven't had to have these exact discussions before and I I think communities will will be able to work through it. I know the public Education Department is poised to offer help and guidance as his D. O. H. But it's a good question and I think that's why I suggested reporters go because I think at least if my emails or any indication there, I mean most of us for reasons that aren't completely clear to me have hardened into some really opposite opinions on these things and the answer actually turns out to be somewhere in the middle. But if you're fixed to specific opposing poles, it's it's harder and it takes time to get to the middle. But I think just to close this, close this off jodi, because I think this is our last question. I think that reference that we could all have for being curious as to other people's point of view, rather than accusing them, I think, seeking first to understand others point of view, rather than making sure we're understood first having compassion and understanding that other people have needs that are legitimate, um not just our own needs at play here, and that empathy versus apathy, really trying to find a solution, the best possible solution to benefit all parties and with that, I think we're done Jody and I would just encourage you all work in your own communities, families, workplaces, to find that middle way? I think it was, I think, and I'm not going to get this quote right, but I think it was Voltaire that said anytime there is a long dispute between two opposing parties in almost every instance, both are wrong and while wrong is a little harsher of a word. Maybe it's the french translation translation from the french, I don't know, but I think we have to remember that, that we're looking for a middle way of what's best for everyone in new Mexico, that's just ourselves and our family or our beliefs, but more how do we coexist together in a positive way, and with that, I deputized everyone watching and listening to think about what ways you can be a positive influence in your own workplace community, um, and other situations. Town hall, City Council, whatever it is to come up with a safe alternative that benefits uh, most new mexicans. And with that Jody, I think we'll say goodbye unless you have any final words. No. I just would like to thank our media partners for joining us and we'll see you next week at the same time. Thanks everybody. Welcome aboard, Jody. Thank you. Welcome aboard again. Thank you doctors Greece."}]
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