Disability Rights New Mexico and three families filed a suit against the state and three managed care organizations for allegedly not providing necessary care to medically fragile children. The managed care organizations are New Mexico Blue Cross and Blue Shield, Presbyterian Health Plan and Western Sky Community Care.
Medicaid is required to provide at-home care to severely disabled children whose ability to live at home is dependent upon trained nursing, the complaint states. Jesse Clifton, a lawyer with Disability Rights New Mexico, said the state has about 400 medically-fragile children, some of whom are not receiving any at-home nursing despite qualifying for it. He said he anticipates more families will join the lawsuit. The state is providing federal funds for that coverage, Clifton and Holly Mell, also a lawyer for Disability Rights New Mexico, told NM Political Report.
Modeling from Los Alamos National Labs for the state of New Mexico shows that the current surge of COVID-19 cases could peak soon. That’s according to state epidemiologist Dr. Christine Ross, who was one of three top state health officials who spoke during a press conference on Wednesday. “We all need to continue doing our part with all of the mitigation measures, so masking indoors, avoiding crowds, every eligible person, please get out and get a vaccine, etc.,” she said. She said it was a “possible plateau” but the state would need more data to make sure it wasn’t a blip in the data. Vaccinations remained a key point for Ross and other officials.
A University of New Mexico Cancer Center oncologist said she and other providers are seeing an increase in the amount of people diagnosed with breast cancer in the state. Dr. Ursa Brown-Glaberman, medical oncologist at the UNM Cancer Comprehensive Center, said the increase in cancer diagnosis began in fall of 2020. She said providers “saw what we expected; a whole lot of cancer out there not being detected.”
“As clinicians, we saw a huge wave of diagnosis. We were incredibly busy [in the] fall [of 2020] and spring [of 2021] and there were more patients than we normally see with new breast cancers. We saw women who skipped mammograms for a year.
The growing number of COVID-19 cases and the strain on hospitals is a concern in New Mexico, with crisis standards of care likely to come in a week. So much so that currently there are currently fifty people on a waitlist to find an ICU bed, Acting Department of Health Secretary Dr. David Scrase said in a press conference on Wednesday. “It’s a completely new phenomenon,” Scrase said, who also said those on the waiting list are very sick individuals who need to be in the ICU. “It’s now. It’s temporary and I think it’s well-meaning people trying not to close off all hope, but it’s moving slowly,” Scrase said.
Shortly before noon on March 11, 2020, the New Mexico Department of Health announced a public health emergency for the growing spread of COVID-19. The same day, the World Health Organization declared the outbreak a pandemic. In New Mexico, the governor and health officials held an in-person press conference in the Roundhouse, with reporters in the room. “If you are sick, stay home. Wash your hands, use antibacterial [soap],” Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said.
Health officials spoke on Wednesday during a press conference about the rollout of the new Johnson & Johnson vaccine, a new emphasis on certain areas of the state for new doses and even the decision by Texas’ governor to end that state’s mask mandate and capacity restrictions. This came ahead of the state announcing 359 new cases of COVID-19 and thirteen additional deaths related to the disease. Nearly 40 of the new cases, 37, were among inmates of the Lea County Correctional Facility, which has seen hundreds of new cases in the last few days. Department of Health Secretary Tracie Collins said the state received 17,200 doses of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine, but would receive few, if any, vaccines in the coming weeks until the company can manufacture more doses. While she did not have the names of the counties available immediately, she said that the vaccines would be sent to ten counties with low vaccine coverage and high ratings on the CDC’s Social Vulnerability Index.
Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and top state health officials had optimistic news related to the state’s COVID-19 response and vaccine distribution, during a remote press conference on Thursday. The press conference came just a day after the state eased restrictions for counties in the yellow and green levels as well as adding another level, turquoise, which would allow even less restrictive COVID rules. Related: State updates ‘Red-to-Green’ framework, including adding a ‘Turquoise’ level
“We are on the road to recovery,” Lujan Grisham said in a press conference on Thursday. “And this is exactly where we deserve to be, given our hard work.”
The state also recently celebrated administering 500,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine and remains one of the highest performing states in the nation when it comes to administering COVID-19. The average number of daily cases continues to fall, though a health official cautioned that reopening could cause that decrease to slow down.
State health officials continued to express optimism over the trend of COVID-19 and vaccinations in the state, announcing that the state had administered over 450,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine as of Wednesday, including nearly 145,000 who have received both doses of either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine. The vaccination rate of 7 percent, Department of Health Secretary-designate Dr. Tracie Collins said, was the third-highest of any state in the country. It is also double the state’s rate from two weeks ago. “We’re focusing on vulnerable populations and communities moving forward,” Collins said. The state is still vaccinating those in the 1A and first two subphases of 1B groups, with an emphasis on those in 1A.
COVID-19 related restrictions will be eased in many parts of the state, as the number of cases continues to drop, with more than half of all counties improving out of the “red” level of restrictions. Additionally, the state announced that it would no longer require a self-quarantine for those who visit New Mexico from “high-risk” states, but will still strongly advise those who arrive from states with a five percent positivity rate or a positive test rate of over 80 people per 1 million residents. Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and two cabinet officials spoke about the positive news in a press conference on Wednesday. “It’s always more fun to do these press conferences when the news is good and the news remains good,” state Human Services Department Secretary Dr. David Scrase said. “I’m very excited about our progress, you should be too,” Lujan Grisham said.
Although cases of COVID-19 dropped due to what Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham calls the “reset,” she encouraged the state to “stay the course” through the holidays. New Mexico Human Services Secretary Dr. David Scrase, who joined Lujan Grisham remotely for the press conference aired over social media Wednesday, said the “reset really did work.”
“We flattened the curve. It got flat. We know the reset helped a great deal and Thanksgiving helped because people were less mobile,” he said. But, Scrase said, the state is seeing an uptick, which he called “worrisome.”
“We cannot take on another 100 patients at this point in time.