Local health experts discuss COVID-19 hospitalization rates, updates

Coronavirus New Mexico

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Experts from the University of New Mexico Health, Presbyterian, Lovelace Health System, and Christus St. Vincent held a remote conference to discuss topics including COVID-19 hospitalization rates, trends, and updates on the latest evidence on Monday, February 22.

UNM Hospital Chief Quality and Safety Officer Dr. Rohini McKee, Presbyterian Healthcare Services Medical Director Dr. Denise Gonzales, Lovelace Chief Medical Officer Dr. Vesta Sandoval, and Christus St. Vincent Regional Medical Center Chief Medical Officer Dr. David Gonzales were in attendance.

UNM Hospital officials said if you have contracted with the virus and you are eligible, you need to get the vaccine. “If you do not get vaccinated because you’ve had Covid you are essentially at risk for reinfection,” said Dr. Rohini McKee, UNM Hospital Chief Quality and Safety Officer. “Risk of a severe illness, you’re at risk for long-term symptoms. We know that the vaccine is safe, we know that they are extremely effective. So rather you’ve had COVID or not we urge you to get vaccinated.”

Dr. McKee said if you contract COVID you do develop antibodies. However, she said it’s still unclear how long those antibodies will remain in your system. current studies suggest immunity lasts at least six to 12 months. KRQE asked if hospitals are seeing a change in who is being hospitalized with COVID-19. 

Christus St. Vincent in Santa Fe said they have seen a decrease in older patients.


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“At Christus St. Vincent we’ve seen fewer people over the ages of 75. Now we’re starting to see people anywhere from the range of  40 to 60,” said Dr. David Gonzales, with Christus St. Vincent.

Presbyterian, Lovelace, and UNMH said it is hard to know if vaccines are causing the reduction in older New Mexicans being hospitalized because of the two-week lag in reporting data. But Dr. Vesta Sandoval with Lovelace did say she saw an estimation of a 10% decline in deaths among the older population based on vaccinations. But admits, it’s still hard to know for certain. 

Presbyterian also announced they may open a vaccine clinic next week depending on supply. It would be located near Balloon Fiesta Park at their Hugh Cooper Center. Metro-area hospitals also said they’re changing their visitor policy. Non-COVID patients will now be allowed one visitor at a time.

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