One focus of New Mexico’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic is the “surge.” That’s the time that hospitalizations will stretch hospital resources to their maximum, and potentially overwhelm, as has happened in other areas around the country and world.
In a remote press conference by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and two of her cabinet-level secretaries, the governor said a number of times that the number one thing New Mexicans can do to push that surge further into the future and lessen its impact is to remain socially distanced.
“We should just treat it like we all have this virus and we have an extra responsibility to prevent the spread,” she said.
The amount of confirmed COVID-19 cases in New Mexico crossed 400 on Thursday, and the state Department of Health announced that a seventh person with COVID-19 has died. The state said the death was a woman in Bernalillo County in her 70s, who died on Wednesday. She was hospitalized and had multiple underlying medical conditions. Update (4/3): COVID-19 cases jump to 495, state reports 3 new deaths
The state said that another 40 people have tested positive for COVID-19, bringing the state’s total to 403. The state said that 34 people are hospitalized in New Mexico for COVID-19, an increase of three patients.
A different type of test than what is now being widely used could be more useful for tracking the COVID-19 outbreak in the U.S, according to a former U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and World Health Organization official. Currently, health officials are relying on one type of test, called PCR tests, to determine whether an individual is infected with the novel coronavirus known as SARS-COV-2, which causes COVID-19 in humans. Public health officials are then using that information to conduct an investigation in hopes of piecing together who else might have it, and who may need to be tested for it and self-isolate. But Dr. Murray Cohen, a retired infectious disease expert at both the CDC and the WHO, told NM Political Report that the current COVID-19 tests are more useful in a clinical setting for doctors trying to diagnose a sick patient and suggested a different type of test that would help public health officials who are trying to understand the extent of the outbreak.
Limits of the diagnostic PCR test
The United States’ COVID-19 test uses what’s called polymerase chain reaction, also known as a PCR, to detect the presence of viral genetic material. Here’s how the process works in New Mexico: a trained technician or physician collects samples from the patient, either by swabbing in the nasal cavity or down the throat.
The state announced Wednesday a sixth person with COVID-19 died in the state, and that an additional 48 people tested positive for the disease. Update (4/2/2020): DOH: Seventh COVID-19 patient in NM dies; total positive cases in state now over 400
The state Department of Health said that the person who died was a woman in her 90s from Sandoval County. She had underlying medical conditions and died on Tuesday. She is the first person to die with COVID-19 in Sandoval County. The 48 new positive tests bring the state’s total to 363 positive tests.
In a press conference on Tuesday, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and cabinet officials outlined the state’s preparations for the expected “surge” in cases of COVID-19 in the upcoming weeks and the resulting hospitalizations, which will strain and even overwhelm the state’s health care systems, as it has in other areas of the country and world. And the state provided a stark update on how many New Mexicans could die, well above previous estimates. She said the state will make preparations to expand its hospital bed capacity, medical equipment and COVID-19 testing, while urging the public to practice socially distancing to keep the peak of cases as low as possible. Related: Guv’s public health order extended another month
What exactly that peak amount of cases looks like is something officials and experts have been considering as a way to prepare.
A widely shared model from the University of Washington Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation predicts that the state will hit its peak amount of COVID-19 cases on May 2, which would require 1,594 hospital beds and 239 beds in intensive care units. The model predicts a total amount of 529 deaths from COVID-19 in New Mexico, with a peak of 16 daily COVID-19 deaths on April 29.
Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham announced on Tuesday that she is extending the state’s public health order to stay at home until the end of April to continue social distancing. New Mexico has not peaked yet for COVID-19, a disease caused by a coronavirus. Lujan Grisham and other state officials spoke Tuesday on a press conference streamed on Facebook about the state’s need to continue social distancing to flatten the curve so COVID-19 positive patients will not overwhelm hospitals in the state. That would cause more deaths, she said. So far, residents in New Mexico are not staying at home.