Officials concerned about rise in unvaccinated COVID cases, full ICU beds

Coronavirus New Mexico

NEW MEXICO (KRQE) – New Mexico hospitals are nearing crisis mode. Beds in intensive care units are full, there’s a nursing shortage and COVID-19 cases continue to climb. At last count, 50 people are on a waiting list for a bed in the ICU. COVID-19 is partly to blame but people are also seeking the care they had delayed last year. State health officials said it’s only going to get worse if people don’t get vaccinated.

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“The importance of the actions we take not just for ourselves but for our community,” said Dr. David Scrase, the New Mexico Health and Human Services Secretary. Dr. Scrase is calling on New Mexicans to get vaccinated. In a press conference Wednesday afternoon, top health officials shared their concerns about the uptick in hospitalizations. “ICU beds nationwide are filling up,” added Dr. Scrase.

In New Mexico, we’re almost into the crisis level standard of care at hospitals. That means if things get worse, hospitals could be forced to make decisions about who gets what resources and care because the staff is short and beds are limited. “Our ICU beds in the state are well over 100% with the ICUs in Albuquerque, Presbyterian, and the university, in particular, expanding well beyond their capacity to take care of extra people,” said Dr. Scrase.

Dr. Scrase said the ICU bed shortage is statewide, especially for people needing them in Albuquerque, Farmington and Las Cruces. “We have over 50 people right now just on a waiting list to get ICU care,” said Dr. Scrase.

To hit home, officials shared several graphs showing the difference in hospitalizations and case counts comparing the vaccinated to the unvaccinated. They said unvaccinated people have made up 88% of hospitalizations and 85% of deaths this past month. “The green line which I’m pointing at there with the large red arrow is the case rate among the unvaccinated persons and this is very, quite worry some,” said Dr. Christine Ross.

Although New Mexico’s largest population is in the metro, officials are looking to the northwest and southeast as areas of concern. The southeast is the biggest worry of all. They’re approaching 280 cases per 100,000 people per day. That’s a five times higher rate than in the northwest part of the state. Officials also point out the low vaccination rate in the southeast, which is around 45%.

“We have seen case rates in the hundreds in both Eddy and Lea counties,” said Dr. Scrase. “Meaning that .1% of people living in those counties, that’s every ten days, 1% of the population will be infected and we have not seen those kinds of rates in a sustained fashion ever in the history of this pandemic.”

Dr. Scrase predicts daily COVID case counts statewide could climb 1,300 to 1,500 by next month. He adds that there is a possibility we could see a downturn in cases in mid-September. However, that all depends on people wearing masks and getting vaccinated.

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