COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in New Mexico have been on the upswing for the past four weeks, and health officials believe the state is in the midst of a new wave of the virus.
State health officials recommended at a news conference Thursday that people stay home if they’re sick, keep up to date on immunizations, and consider wearing a mask in areas as crowded as airports around during Thanksgiving and the upcoming winter vacation to be sure.
New Mexico reported 4,318 new COVID cases and 134 hospitalizations in the seven days ended Nov. 14, according to Department of Health epidemiological reports. That was an increase of 2,310 new cases and 96 admissions in the week ended Oct. 24, an 86% increase in cases and a 39% increase in hospitalizations in about a month.
The current Minister of Health, Dr. David Scrase said modeling based on a recent COVID surge in England suggests the current wave will last about eight weeks, bringing New Mexico about halfway. The peak in hospital admissions and deaths lags the peak in cases by a few weeks, he said.
“So we’re going to see more hospitalizations,” he said. “And unfortunately we will see more deaths.”
On Thursday, the state reported 818 new cases and three more deaths, bringing the death toll to 8,692 since the state’s first COVID case was confirmed nearly 1,000 days ago.
But Scrase said there are likely two to three times the number of community COVID cases than are being reported because so many people rely on at-home testing that isn’t included in official case counts. 170 people have been hospitalized with COVID across the state, according to the DOH.
With holiday gatherings just around the corner, doctors are advising people to do their best to look after their most vulnerable family members, including the elderly. dr Laura Parajón, deputy secretary of the Ministry of Health, recommended that people take a rapid test before attending a large gathering.
COVID is not the only virus spreading in the state. Local hospitals are reporting that their pediatric departments are operating beyond approved capacity due to an outbreak of respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). The flu is also causing hospitalizations across the state.
Scrase advised that people traveling by plane over Thanksgiving wear a mask on the plane and at the airport.
“We know this is a challenging time and we will continue to work together,” said Dr. Anna Duran, Associate Medical Director at the University of New Mexico Children’s Hospital. “We’ll get through this.”