New Mexico’s already-strained hospital system could need more than 700 beds for COVID-19 patients by next week, a startling increase from the nearly 400 beds now used by people being treated for the disease, state health officials said Wednesday.

For more than a week, hospitals statewide have been on the verge of rationing care because they’re so full, a move known as implementing crisis standards of care.

As of Wednesday, 381 patients were hospitalized for COVID-19 across the state. On Tuesday, only 30 intensive care beds were available in New Mexico.

“Keep in mind we already have all the actual beds full. These are stretch beds where we’ve converted areas” into patient rooms, Dr. David Scrase, the state’s human services secretary and acting secretary of the Department of Health, said Wednesday during an online news briefing.

“Our transfer center continues to run, continues to move people around the state to try to get people into whatever hospital bed is open,” he added.

During a surge last winter, more than 900 COVID-19 patients were hospitalized across the state. The most recent surge has been exacerbated by a nursing shortage many attribute to burnout from a pandemic that has pushed the medical community to the brink.

The spike in hospitalizations comes as the state struggles to curb the highly infectious delta variant. Modeling from Los Alamos National Laboratory projects 700 to 1,500 new cases of the coronavirus and three to eight additional deaths a day in early September.

“Even though we might be seeing the beginning of a leveling off of cases — it’s not so much cases are coming down but that rate of increase is declining — we are still going to have a couple of really rough weeks,” Scrase said.

New Mexico also is beginning to see an increase in deaths related to COVID-19, which usually occurs around six weeks after case counts begin to rise, Scrase said.

On Wednesday, the state reported 11 additional fatalities. A few weeks ago, it averaged two or three a day.

Health officials on Wednesday reported 875 new infections, including 19 in Santa Fe County. “Our case counts are still way, way too high,” Scrase said.

Still, the virus seems to be spreading at a less rapid pace than a week ago.

“We hope we are seeing the semblance or the beginning of a possible plateau, though it’s too early to say that for sure,” said Dr. Christine Ross, the state epidemiologist, who also attended Wednesday’s briefing.

Nearly 68 percent of eligible New Mexicans are fully vaccinated, though there are several pockets, mostly in the southeastern part of the state, where the vaccination rate is below 50 percent.

“The majority of infections that we’re seeing is among unvaccinated individuals, and this is what’s driving this current surge of cases,” Ross said.

Earlier in the pandemic, health officials indicated New Mexico could achieve herd immunity once 60 percent of the eligible population was inoculated. Now they seem less sure.

“It’s a really complex topic,” Ross said. “We’re not really sure there is a magical number that we can reach where life is going to return to normal.”

As of Wednesday, 47.4 percent of New Mexico children ages 12 to 17 were fully vaccinated. Although that rate continues to increase, more parents need to get their kids vaccinated, especially as they return to class, said Dr. Laura Parajón, deputy secretary of the Department of Health.

“What we think we might be seeing here is some parents may be willing to be vaccinated themselves, but they have concerns about their children getting vaccinated,” she said.

She reminded parents the Pfizer vaccine has been approved for children 12 and up.

“Kids who get COVID, they can get really, really sick,” Parajón said.

(11) comments

Janet Davidoff

Well, I stayed home starting in January 2020 when I read about the Wuhan lockdown. The world is too interconnected for us to escape a pandemic. Btw, when Trumpster shut down airflughrs, he left Shipping wide open cuz his merch comes from China to the west coast...imagine that.

I got in line for my vaccine, but still staying home. Ah well, the grocery store is still crawling with Maskless Bioterrorists. Before you object, look up the testbook definition of Bioterrorists... eben the Merriam Webster definition.

Staying home has improved my native food forest and I keep buildimg raised garden beds, too. Good luck to all.

Bill Dimas

There’s an easy solution to all this……FDA HAS GIVEN FULL APPROVAL FOR THE PFIZER VACCINE!! EVERYONE NEEDS TO GET VACCINATED….NO EXCUSES!!! PERIOD.

Robert Fields

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Mike Johnson

""Even though we might be seeing the beginning of leveling off of cases — it's not so much cases are coming down but that rate of increase is declining — we are still going to have a couple of really rough weeks," Dr. David Scrase,..." This man can't speak English. If case averages are lower one week to the next they are coming down. If the cases are increasing week on week average, they are going up, and the rate of increase if they are going up may be declining or increasing. Currently, the weekly average is DOWN from the previous week. What a tool......

Lupe Molina

What a weird thing to take issue with. He said that cases were leveling off and the rate if increase was declining. That's pretty clear English.

rodney carswell

you could do such a better job.

Angel Ortiz

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Robert Fields

Mike, might want to review your old books from that degree you like to try to impress people with. What Scrase said makes perfect sense. But for someone in denial on covid death rates and global warming, your inability to understand what he said is… understandable.

Barry Rabkin

But it's all Fake News, isn't it ???? (Deep sarcasm.) As a public health official, Dr. Scrase and his colleagues have to be concerned not only with mortality rates but also with the healthcare / hospital resources our State has - or in this situation, does not have.

Too many of us, and I include myself, take our public health system for granted: it will always be there, there will always be a minimum level of doctors and nurses, the equipment that our healthcare providers need to care for us will always be available.

A pandemic, a global pandemic specifically, of a highly infectious virus alters, or should alter, our conception of what public health resources might NOT be available. Viruses mutate (whether they are part of a global pandemic or not) and the unvaccinated form a rich target of opportunity for the virus to mutate to become variants that the vaccination can not protect the people who have taken the vaccination.

I understand that there are some people who for medical reasons can not get vaccinated. I can't fathom the stupidity of those people without limiting medical conditions who could be vaccinated but believe, mistakenly, that Covid-19 is fake or is 'political' or use 'my body, my choice' [no, it's not your choice because you can infect other people] or other otherworldly ignorance to not get vaccinated.

Robert Fields

Not only do we have to contend with way too much ignorance about vaccines with the hesitant, we have people like Mike Johnson and the usual crew spreading misinformation as hard as they can go.

And, ultimately, all we have to do is wait a couple of weeks to see it all unfold and who is right. It’s too late now to do anything that significantly changes the next couple of weeks anyway. Behavior changes now will affect what comes after. So far, everything about this pandemic has come exactly as we have been warned. It’s no coincidence the states with the overflowing hospitals all have big anti-mask and anti-vaxx populations - and republican governors. It’s simple cause and effect.

Aside from the collateral damage to those who want to get vaccinated but for whatever reason cannot, Johnson is mostly hurting those of his own kind. It’s the far right lapping up ivermectin and hydroxychloroquine - not democrats and liberals. The far right is doing a pretty fair job killing themselves off. In looking up all the crazy stuff people are doing to fight the virus they also call a hoax, I found Wikipedia’s “List of unproven methods against COVID-19”. A fair amount of them are from countries that don’t have good stocks of vaccines and the people are understandably desperate, but many or most are from right here as profiteers sell these people flash drives claimed to stop infection through 5G radio waves, rope necklaces laced with banned insecticides, bleach inhalers, arsenic, etc. Rand Paul's wife bought into the company that makes ivermectin and hubby is in DC demanding an investigation into why a large animal dewormer isn’t being pushed as a covid cure by Fauci and the CDC. (Spoiler - because it doesn’t work against covid.) Anyone curious about what these people will believe while rejecting modern science and expert advice ought to check it out and wish the gullible a bon voyage.

I hate to say it but I’ve stopped caring about the people who are ignoring good advice while falling for bizarre quack cures. I worry about the people who can’t defend themselves that the right infects and cause to die.

JB Weinberg

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