ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Experts from the University of New Mexico Health, Presbyterian, and Lovelace Health System discussed several topics including COVID-19 hospitalization rates and updates on the latest evidence. During the update, doctors thanked those who altered Thanksgiving plans to keep the community safe and urged New Mexicans to do the same for Christmas.

“Our hospitals are very full and if we do not continue on the same path as we are now, we will overwhelm our facilities, our physicians, our nurses,” Dr. Vesta Sandoval, Chief Medical Officer at Lovelace Health System said. “We won’t be able to take care of patients that are coming through the door even with ordinary problems.”

All three hospitals said they are either out of ICU and regular beds or are close to it. They expect hospitalizations to only increase over the next few weeks as infections from Thanksgiving gatherings come in.

They said they are creating plans to save beds for only those who really need them. The plans include safely sending people home with oxygen saturation monitors and monitoring them at home. While there are some concerns surrounding the easing of restrictions across the state, Dr. Rohini McKee, Chief Quality and Safety Officer at UNMH, said it really comes down to personal behavior.

“It is my understanding that the increase in cases that we’re seeing are not based on businesses being open so much as they’re based on people gathering indoors for parties, for family events. And so, I think that is what we need to focus on especially during this season, is to encourage people to delay that gratification to a few months from now in a post-vaccine world,” she said.

When it comes to vaccines, the doctors talked about the challenges that come with distribution including the temperatures they need to be kept at and how to distribute multiple vaccines if available. “One of the most difficult things is going to be the fact that you need two doses, right? And so, if people cross state lines, are indifferent to public health registries, that becomes a problem. If you get the Pfizer vaccine first time around, you have to get the Pfizer vaccine the second time around. And so there are a lot of logistic challenges,” Dr. McKee said.

“We’ve been very fortunate in the fact that our state has taken a very proactive approach
to developing these vaccine committees and working with all of us to help coordinate the distribution of the vaccine, which is exceptionally difficult,” Dr. Sandoval said. “I think just in comparison to some of our colleagues in other parts of the country, we’re quite far ahead and down the road in how we’re going to be able to organize and get these vaccines effectively to all our employees.”

While the daily number of new COVID-19 cases has been lower the last few days, doctors noted this may not actually reflect a reduction in community spread.

“It’s hard to know exactly what’s going on with the current numbers. Over a holiday weekend, you will get less testing. There’s less people staffing testing centers. So, in theory, the lower numbers may or may not represent a true decrease in the community spread,” Dr. Jason Mitchell, Chief Medical and Clinical Transformation Officer for Presbyterian Healthcare Service said.

During an update on Nov. 9, health officials stressed the importance of staying home as transmission rates increased. Local medical leaders previously stated they have no intention of reducing access to care for things like cancer or other urgent medical conditions but said non-urgent, elective procedures are being postponed.