NEW MEXICO (KRQE) – While community transmission remains high in most of New Mexico’s counties, the state continues to see a sustained decline in the total average of new COVID-19 cases. New Mexico’s top health experts updated the latest trends in COVID-19 cases for the state during a news conference Wednesday afternoon.

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New Mexico has hit a six-week low for hospitalizations, indicating some potential relief for health care staff. 287 people were reported in New Mexico hospitals Wednesday with COVID-19. However, deaths and hospitalizations are expected to remain a problem for New Mexico, according to the presentation from state health leaders Wednesday.

“Unfortunately that 12 deaths we saw last week is just the preliminary number, that will likely rise over 40 as well,” Dr. David Scrase said describing the lag time between a death occurring a notification being finalized through processes between medical staff, funeral homes and state officials. “We can start to expect to see a decline in the number of deaths two to three to four weeks after a decline in the number of hospitalizations, which we’re not quite seeing yet.”

The update comes one week after health experts outlined an apparent slowing or “plateauing” of new COVID-19 cases in New Mexico. According to the most recently published state report from Monday, the state saw 4,131 new COVID cases reported over the last week (ending Sept. 27, 2021,) down from 4,556 new COVID cases reported in the week prior.

Wednesday, New Mexico reported 632 new COVID-19 cases and 12 new deaths. On Tuesday, the state Department of Health noted 12 additional deaths and 613 new COVID-19 cases.

New Mexico reports hospital admissions have gone up over last week, compared to the week prior. 165 new patients were admitted to New Mexico hospitals with COVID between September 21 and 27. The week prior, New Mexico reported 150 new COVID-related hospital admissions. In total across all hospitals in New Mexico, 301 people remained hospitalized with COVID-19 in New Mexico as of Tuesday.

Speaking of hospitalizations during a news conference last week, NMDOH Acting Secretary Dr. David Scrase said, “Remember, hospital activity follows case activity.” Dr. Scrase added, “cases are now at a plateau, they came down a little, but they’re not sloping downward the past few days, so, we’re still really concerned about our hospitals.”

As COVID cases continue to decline, the state is expecting to ramp up the use of COVID-19 vaccine booster doses. To start, New Mexico is targeting booster doses to anyone over 50 years old with underlying medical conditions, and another over 65 years old. People who work in high-risk settings and people under 50-years old with serious medical conditions can begin getting booster doses on October 11.

Dr. David Scrase also outlined New Mexico’s continued issue with ivermectin being used to treat COVID-19. The drug’s use, which has not been approved by the FDA for treatment of COVID-19, has lead to at least 20 reports to the state’s poison control center since the start of 2021, with 15 of those calls have been reported in August and September.

Of the ivermectin reports, the state says two people died, including a 38-year old woman and a man in his 70’s; Eleven people received treatment at a hospital or urgent care; Nine people were confirmed to have a positive COVID-19 infection. and ten people were exposed to veterinarian paste, tablets, injection, or “pour-on.”