Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicated that the same number of COVID-19 cases can be found in New Mexico’s largest county and one of its smallest counties,
Bernalillo is home to 678,000 residents and Lincoln County is home to just 19,000 people, according to World Population Review website, yet both communities are considered on par or exceeding thresholds for high levels of community risk.
New COVID-19 admissions per 100,000 people in the past seven days, percentage of beds occupied by COVID-19 patients and total new cases per 100,000 people in the past seven days are three key pieces used by CDC to determine COVID-19 community levels, per the CDC website.
The New Mexico Department of Health’s (DOH) COVID-19 outlook from July 26 through Aug. 8 noted Lincoln County’s cases per 100,000 people and positivity rate exceeded those reported in Bernalillo County.
Lincoln’s positivity rate was 22 percent and cases per 100,000 people was 49, according to DOH.
Bernalillo County had 34 cases per 100,000 and a positivity rate of 16 percent during the late July through August reporting period.
Lincoln County Medical Center Administrator Todd Oberhu said community level threats in the County were hard to judge due to home test kits and lack of hospital patients.
He said Lincoln County’s lone hospital had treated just one COVID-19 case as of Aug. 9.
“We’re not seeing volumes like before. Two weeks ago, seven people were admitted to the hospital,” Oberhu said.
He attributed Lincoln County’s higher COVID-19 numbers to tourism in the community, which makes up a large portion of the Village of Ruidoso’s seasonal population. According to Village data, Ruidoso has a seasonal population of 25,000 people versus around 10,000 who live in Lincoln County’s largest community fulltime.
Sixty percent of Village of Ruidoso homes are vacation homes and nearly 2 million tourists visit yearly, per the Village’s website.
“A lot of individuals traveling in is increasing (COVID-19) exposure,” Oberhu said.
He said New Mexico medical professionals gained knowledge and more tools to deal with COVID-19 in 2022 than in 2020 when the first cases were announced.
“I’m a big believer in the vaccination,” he said.
COVID-19 vaccinations started in late 2020, according to the American Journal of Managed Care (AJMC).
The first COVID-19 vaccination, Pfizer-BioNTech, was approved for general use in the United States in August of 2021 by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
Oberhu recommended Lincoln County residents receive COVID-19 boosters, as the data showed the cases continued to trend upward.
“We continue with our physicians to offer visits with individuals and televisits. Be safe when in closed spaces,” he said.
Lincoln County Medical Center is owned by Lincoln County and for 50 years it has been managed and leased by Presbyterian Healthcare Services