Although intensive care units in New Mexico are filled with COVID-19 patients, the number of hospitalizations during the most recent surge hasn’t been as high as computer modeling had projected, the state’s top health officials said Wednesday.

In fact, New Mexico’s hospitalization rate has held steady and new cases seem to be leveling off.

“There’s something about our response this time … that has created this change in the shape of the curve,” Dr. David Scrase, the state’s human services secretary and acting secretary of the Department of Health, said in a video chat with reporters.

Many in the medical community believe New Mexicans are seeking treatment more quickly once they test positive for the coronavirus, which has helped reduce hospitalizations.

On Tuesday, New Mexico had 18 available ICU beds, and as of Wednesday, hospitals were treating 394 COVID-19 patients, well below the more than 700 hospitalizations the state had projected last week.

“We’re happy to take the cases being lower than we expected,” Scrase said.

For weeks, many feared the state would run out of hospital beds, forcing doctors to ration care.

While the state’s hospital system has reached the crisis standards of care threshold, “We have not issued any kind of official crisis standards of care declaration,” Scrase said.

Though there is a shortage of hospital beds, “We have not had to deny anyone medical treatment,” he said.

Still, he believes hospitalizations will remain high for at least the next two weeks.

The state Department of Health reported 543 new cases of the coronavirus Wednesday, the state’s lowest daily total in more than a month.

“Although we certainly don’t want to celebrate too early, I do want to say we’re happy to see that there is a deceleration of growth in new cases. And what you can see is the semblance of a possible plateau,” said Dr. Christine Ross, state epidemiologist, who also participated in Wednesday’s video chat.

Yet she pointed out Monday was Labor Day, and case counts usually rise in the weeks following a holiday because people tend to gather with friends and family to celebrate.

“We could see an increase in our case counts in the next week or so,” Ross said. “We’re going to continue to watch this very, very closely. But we’re very hopeful that this plateau will turn into a decreasing trend of new cases.”

For the first time since the delta variant erupted over the summer, the state’s spread rate is 1. A rate above 1 means the virus is spreading exponentially. When the rate is less than 1, the virus is in decline.

“Again, this is a move in the right direction. We hope to see this drop below 1,” Ross said.

She credited the lower spread rate to the state getting the word out about the infectious nature of the delta variant and Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s decision to reimplement an indoor mask mandate: “All of these things together appear to have made a positive impact.”

While the number of new infections appears to be letting up, deaths related to COVID-19 are rising. The state reported 15 additional deaths Wednesday, including a Santa Fe County man in his 60s, a Los Alamos County woman in her 40s and a San Miguel County man in his 70s. A few weeks ago, the state averaged two or three fatalities a day.

The state also is seeing an increase in infections among children 5 to 17 years old. Pediatric cases have accounted for nearly 16 percent of New Mexico’s cases since the pandemic began. In the past week, the 5 to 17 age group has accounted for 24 percent of new cases.

“One thing that really sticks out is vaccination coverage,” Ross said.

The vaccination rate among children is much lower than other age groups because anyone younger than 12 isn’t eligible to get vaccinated.

“This is why we are anxiously awaiting approval, FDA approval, for these younger age groups,” Ross said, “so we can help temper the number of infections that we’re seeing right now.”

(10) comments

Randy DeVinney

New Mexico has the 10th highest COVID vaccine compliance rate in the nation, with 60.8% of eligible residents being fully vaccinated. We also have a very high face mask compliance rate, with visitors from other states observing that they see a lot more people wearing face masks here than in adjacent states.

On an unrelated matter, New Mexico is tied with Michigan for the 14th highest COVID death rate in the nation, at 217 COVID deaths per million in population. That's higher than Florida and Texas, which both prohibit face mask mandates.

Robert Fields

No, Randy, the high NM numbers are found in counties in the west, south, and southeast parts of the state. The reason we have high numbers are thanks to our own little Texas and little Arizona populations refusing to follow the guidance. That’s why we have people dying here. It’s the anti-vax, anti-mask, and anti-distancing bad behaviors.

Los Alamos has the highest vaccination rate in the state and the lowest death rate in the state. You should ask yourself how that breaks your claims to pieces.

But at least you are admitting people are dying of covid. Some refuse to believe that until they get told themselves that they are probably going to die. Then, hallelujah and praise your favorite deity, they realize covid actually can be deadly and some try to warn others.

But your numbers are just proving that not vaxxing, masking, or distancing can get you killed.

Sabine Strohem

I hope the numbers continue to trend down. NM's situation (by county) sure highlights the effectiveness of vaccines (and probably masking as well).

Mike Johnson

"....the number of hospitalizations during the most recent surge hasn't been as high as computer modeling had projected..." Well DUH! Computer models are useless for this kind of thing, too complex, too chaotic, and too nonscientific in general, just like the earth's climate. Only an idiot would believe these computer games.

Robert Fields

Sorry, Mike. You’re wrong again. Interesting how you keep slipping in your allegiance to the fossil fuel industry, but, well, gotta pay the bills.

If you would ever bother to catch up with climate modeling, you’d see it’s way more advanced and reliable than you seem to know. The models are validated by feeding them old data and seeing how well they predict into weather that’s already happened and they agree very well. They accurately predict weather for long periods but as you go farther out in time they may get the day it rains wrong but they get the average rainfall, temperatures, etc, correct. Out farther, they still get the climate correct.

The apparent complexity of the model all depends on your level of understanding. All the extra things that have been incorporated into the models are to account for the models originally not predicting as much heating as was being observed. The computer models were underestimating the climate effects until other greenhouse gasses like methane, and N2O were included, other processes added that mattered, etc.

Go to a climate conference some time. It’s pretty scary. They talk about how they validate their models and what they are investigating, show how well their models predict into known data, and then present their results. It’s scary because their models do work well and the predictions are not happy.

But why attack the models? How about the actual temperature, rainfall, glacier retreat, or other data from all over the globe? That’s not prediction. That’s reality. I would assume with that degree you like to remind people about that you do know how to look at a curve and can predict what is likely to happen in the future, can’t you? You don’t expect steadily rising temperatures to suddenly turn cool, right?

Call me an idiot all you want. I trust the models and understand that their errors are getting smaller and smaller. The models are amazingly accurate and validated before use with real data.

What you don’t like is that they show unequivocally and unarguably is that fossil fuels are killing the planet. That link is absolutely clear and that’s why you have to try to discredit anything you can about climate science.

As for discrepancies with covid, I don’t have direct knowledge of those models but there hasn’t been near the track record to refine the models with better data and better relationships. Climate models have been being refined for 30-40 years. But the covid models have still been surprisingly good even being as young as they are, with some states obfuscating and lowballing their infection and death rates, etc. The covid models would be better if states like Florida, Texas, Oklahoma, and others weren’t frequently changing how covid is reported. The covid models are still valuable and reliably and accurately predict wearing masks and getting vaccinated can slow and contain the pandemic.

You just don’t like the answers computer modeling gives - both in climate change and covid. It’s no game.

You just don’t

Robert Fields

Hey Mike, one other thing about those “computer games”. No doubt you will compare them to forecasting the weather but that’s missing some important information. Weather has to be forecast in a timely manner to be useful. Take Ida, for example. There were just a few days to warn people what it was going to do. Weather models have to be small enough and fast enough to give forecasts very quickly so can’t and don’t use as rigorous or data intensive calculations. Those models are simple because finding out Ida’s path, rainfall, and winds after it dissipated wouldn’t be very useful.

I attend climate talks whenever I can and one thing common to most or all of them is the researchers beg for more computer power. Their models take months to run. Really. But the weather predictions for the short term are dead on. One example was a typhoon that hadn’t even formed when the run started, but the model predicted the formation, the strength, the rainfall, and the path up India to pretty amazing accuracy - way late to be useful for the typhoon. But the model nailed it, nonetheless. Climate models are really good at accurately predicting weather for much longer than regular weather forecasts because they take so much more into consideration.

Climate calculations need lots of compute power and time to run. The data sets are huge. Climate calculations aren’t done using the models used for weather. Totally different animal for totally different purposes. Any weather accuracy arguments against climate data are bogus.

These models have proven to be very accurate when tested against known conditions and the only things really wrong with earlier climate predictions has been they used to routinely underestimate the climate impacts of our use of fossil fuels. The errors have been small, but significant, but the wrong way. Instead, things are worse than early models predicted.

I’m pretty sure if the models pointed to a cooling earth (they don’t), or if they indicated masks, distancing, and vaccines spread covid (they don’t), then you would like them?

Mike Johnson

I don't debate scientific subjects in this rag's comment section populated by political scientists, I save my discussions and debates for peers at the various AGU meetings I attend. But perhaps you can gain some eduction about climate models from one of my friend's suggested scientifically published and peer reviewed articles.....

Robert Fields

While I suspect there are other reasons you back away from debating, did you really intend to point us at an organization that has stated their position on global warming opposite yours and like this back in 1998? (Direct quote, btw.)

“Atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases have substantially increased as a consequence of fossil fuel combustion and other human activities. These elevated concentrations of greenhouse gases are predicted to persist in the atmosphere for times ranging to thousands of years. Increasing concentrations of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases affect the Earth-atmosphere energy balance, enhancing the natural greenhouse effect and thereby exerting a warming influence at the Earth's surface.” — AGU, 12/1998

They went on to say (paraphrasing) that there is a compelling basis for concern over how global warming is going to affect life on the planet (future global and regional changes) and that the data is certain enough to cause us to act to mitigate the danger. Back in 1998.

Oops? (Maybe it’s a different AGU? I was looking at the American Geophysical Union.)

Now about Judith Curry, whoever she is… NASA would like a word… Turns out even studies early in the 2000’s were pretty darn accurate. Look at the predictions made in 2004 and how they compare with reality. Pretty nice data, no?

I did find an interesting discussion about Judith Curry in Nature, though. Not very flattering. The conclusion is she has gotten lost in details that don’t matter and gets carried away catering to climate skeptics:

Mike Johnson

You obviously are not a scientist, but rather someone who knows nothing of science but thinks it is like politics, where everyone has to agree with the few people at the top. I shan't waste my time with you.

Robert Fields

Pretty funny, Mike. Science is not politics. Even you should understand that. Science relies on facts. Politics, at least as practiced by some here, seems to sometimes be just about “feels” and throwing scat at a wall to see what sticks while distracting from the real issues at hand.

You started out baselessly attacking covid and climate models with no evidence, no reason. Just a straight out attack to try to muddy the waters and convince readers that neither can be trusted when in fact, both climate and covid modeling are very valuable tools to assign realistic consequences to our behaviors so we can all make better, fact-based decisions. You know, instead of scat and feels, science vs. politics.

Science has something politics doesn’t - verifiable and testable facts. Your Judith Curry tries to paint climate models as unreliable and unable to be trusted when the facts are that even old model predictions are still holding up nicely even almost 20 years later. Those old models might not hold up so well 50 or 100 years out, but they predicted the last 20 years of warming quite nicely.

The facts don’t care what you or I think. They just are. You don’t need to accept or understand them but you should. They will continue to be facts with or without you. The physics and chemistry aren’t going to change just because you ignore them. You seem to be the one who tries to twist or even hide facts to justify your politics. You make wild claims without facts. I just refute them with facts so the misinformation you post might get stopped.

Shouldn’t your politics be fact-based so you can make better decisions on things with such importance now like people’s lives and the future of the planet?

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