Scrase: NM about halfway through last COVID wave

University of New Mexico Hospital in Albuquerque. (Roberto E. Rosales/Journal File)

COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in New Mexico have been on the upswing for the past four weeks, and public health officials believe the state is in the midst of a new wave of the virus.

State health officials recommended in a news conference Thursday that people stay home if they are sick, keep up to date on vaccinations and consider wearing a mask in crowded areas like airports to stay safe during Thanksgiving and the upcoming winter holiday to be.

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 October 24, representing 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 lagged the peak in cases by a few weeks, he said.

“So we’re going to see more hospital admissions,” 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.

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, the 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.

“If you have older family members, they are the ones who are going to get the flu, COVID or (RSV),” Parajón said. “So (take care of) our oldest people.”

Scrase advised people flying on planes over Thanksgiving to 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.”