New Mexico extends COVID-19 public health orders

January 8, 2022 GMT

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — The New Mexico Department of Health on Friday extended health orders related to COVID-19, including a mask mandate for public indoor spaces and a requirement that health care workers and certain other employees be up to date on their vaccinations.

The extension of the health orders for at least another month comes as the omicron variant drives up the case count.

Many of the recent positive cases from the highly transmissible variant have been mild infections that haven’t required hospitalization. Still, New Mexico’s hospitals continue to operate under standards of care that prioritize immediate medical emergencies.

Hospital officials have acknowledged that most patients are being treated for issues unrelated to the virus and that part of the strain on the state’s health care system is rooted in a staffing shortage. State data showed there were 539 people hospitalized Friday for a COVID infection, which is less than during previous peaks.

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The state also confirmed New Mexico is following federal guidelines that lessen the timeline for isolation and quarantine.

Health officials said during a briefing Wednesday that they expect the omicron variant to peak within two to four weeks. They said they were holding out hope that subsequent variants would track similarly and result in less severe illness.