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COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in New Mexico have been on the upswing the past four weeks and health officials project the state is midway through a new wave of the virus.
State health officials in a Thursday news conference recommended that people stay home if they’re sick, stay up to date on vaccinations, and consider wearing a mask in such crowded areas as airports to stay safe during Thanksgiving and the upcoming winter holidays.
New Mexico reported 4,318 new COVID cases and 134 hospital admissions during the seven-day period ending Nov. 14, according to Department of Health epidemiology reports. That was up from 2,310 new cases and 96 admissions the week ending Oct. 24, marking an 86% increase in cases and a 39% rise in hospital admissions in about a month.
Acting Health Secretary Dr. David Scrase said modeling based on a recent COVID surge in England suggests the current wave will last about eight weeks, which puts New Mexico about halfway through it. The peak of hospital admissions and deaths lags behind the peak in cases by a couple of weeks, he said.
“So, we will see more hospitalizations,” he said. “And we will see more deaths, unfortunately.”
On Thursday, the state reported 818 new cases and three more deaths, pushing the toll to 8,692 since the first case of COVID was confirmed in the state, which was almost 1,000 days ago.
But Scrase said that, because so many people are relying on at-home tests, which are not included in the official case counts, it’s likely there are actually two to three times as many COVID cases in the community than are reported. There were 170 people with COVID hospitalized throughout the state, according to DOH.
With holiday gatherings just around the corner, doctors advised people to do their best to take care of their most vulnerable family members, including the elderly. Dr. Laura Parajón, deputy secretary for the Health Department, recommended people take a rapid test before attending a large gathering.
COVID isn’t the only virus spreading in the state. Local hospitals are reporting that their pediatric units are operating above licensed capacity because of a burst of respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV. The flu is also causing hospitalizations throughout the state.
“If you have older family members, they’re the ones who are going to get sickest from flu, from COVID, from (RSV),” Parajón said. “So, (take) care of our oldest people.”
Scrase advised that people traveling by air 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 of the University of New Mexico Children’s Hospital. “We will get through this.”