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New Mexico weekly COVID-19 hospital admissions have fallen 74% since late January when the state was in the throes of the highly contagious omicron variant.
On Wednesday, Acting Health Secretary Dr. David Scrase said hospitalization data will be one of the key metrics health officials use when it comes to managing the virus going forward, as opposed to earlier in the pandemic when daily case counts and the test positivity rate were major data points for state officials. Scrase said he doesn’t expect the state to reimpose mask mandates or other public health orders to slow the spread of the virus.
“We’re realizing that hospitals is where we should be placing our focus and where we should be really watching our resources,” Scrase said during a media briefing.
There were 111 COVID hospital admissions throughout the state in the past seven days, according to a state epidemiology report dated Feb. 28. That was down from 430 admissions in the week prior to the report dated Jan. 31.
As of Wednesday, a total of 236 people with COVID were hospitalized in New Mexico.
The state also reported 440 new cases and 16 more COVID-related deaths, pushing the toll to 6,939 since the start of the pandemic.
The deaths reported Wednesday included 11 recent deaths and five deaths that were more than 30 days old. Of those who died, nine were from Bernalillo County, including a man and woman in their 30s.
Scrase said the hospital self-assessment score – a 0-40 score tallied each week by the state’s Medical Advisory Team to describe how much pressure the state’s health system is facing – has dipped to its lowest level in months. For several months, hospitals have been in crisis, with the state’s health system scoring over a 32.5 out of 40.
This week, the Health Department reported a score of 19. The scoring sheet factors such things as patients being delayed, the size of the workforce and hospital capacity.
“I have relied on … the hospital self-assessment graph, probably more than any other data point in the whole pandemic, for making decisions about crisis standards of care or other interventions,” Scrase said.
Health officials nationwide are placing more emphasis on COVID hospital admissions and capacity.
Last month, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued new guidance on when it is advising people wear masks indoors and take other precautions. The recommendation takes into account a county’s weekly hospital admissions and the percentage of a community’s hospital beds that are filled with COVID patients, as well as new weekly cases.
Scrase said the state has no plans to use those metrics to impose public health orders on such things as mask mandates. For example, he said the state won’t require people in counties with a high COVID level to wear masks in indoor public settings.
This week, 10 New Mexico counties recorded a high level of COVID, according to the CDC. They included Santa Fe, Sandoval and San Juan. Bernalillo County was at a medium level.
Scrase suggested using the data much like how one would use a weather forecast.
“If you see a cold front coming in, you might bring a heavier jacket with you to work,” Scrase said. “If you see a surge in cases and hospitalizations in your community, you might decide … to wear a mask for the next one to two weeks.”