NEW MEXICO (KRQE) – While New Mexico hospitals continue with the pressure of a high number of COVID-positive patients overwhelming medical staff, more nurses and new antiviral drugs could offer some much-needed relief soon. As of last week, 210 traveling nurses were assisting hospitals across the state. That number has now grown to 364 nurses, with a huge surge in help for a handful of Albuquerque hospitals.

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“You can see now that the larger hospitals are also asking for help. You see Presbyterian, you see Lovelace. UNM also has a request that we are working on. So, we are doing the best that we can,” New Mexico Department of Health’s Acting Secretary, Dr. David Scrase said.

Lovelace’s Albuquerque hospitals are now using more than 100 traveling nurses which is more than double the number they had last week. The Presbyterian Hospital has also added traveling nurses and soon UNMH will as well. Just last month, Presbyterian and UNMH declared “crisis standards of care.”

In part, because their hospitals have been running between 125 to 150 percent patient capacity. Hoping to keep more COVID patients out of the hospital, the state is eyeing new antiviral drugs that can be taken through a pill. This week, New Mexico expected to get around 320 treatment courses for Molnupiravir. A new drug developed by Merck & Co. with partner Ridgeback Biotherapeutics LP, but that drug still has yet to be approved by the FDA.

“It’ll be a slow start but it could be a very very important tool or weapon, even if you will, in the fight against COVID as production increases, and if the data holds up in reduction of hospitalization and death,” said Dr. Scrase.

Pfizer also has another oral COVID treatment that could be approved by the FDA before the end of the year. Once New Mexico gets its hands on some of these new COVID-19 treatments. The state says it’s planning to give them to rural counties where it’s difficult to administer monoclonal antibody treatments through IV infusions. Those counties include; Valencia and Torrance in the central region and Hidalgo, Mora, Catron, Harding, De Baca and Cibola counties.