The leaders of New Mexico’s largest health care systems had a message for New Mexicans: Get vaccinated.
At a press conference on Tuesday, they discussed the current increase in cases, which they all described as being largely among those not vaccinated.
“The evidence shows that COVID-19 is now truly an unvaccinated pandemic,” said Presbyterian Health Services medical director Dr. Denise Gonzales. “In New Mexico, 93% of hospitalizations for COVID-19 are unvaccinated. In Presbyterian hospitals statewide, we’re seeing a doubling of cases every week. “
A majority of adults in New Mexico, 65.5%, were fully vaccinated as of Tuesday, and more than 53% of the total population is fully vaccinated. No vaccine is currently approved for use in children under 12 years of age.
Hospital beds, both in the intensive care unit and general beds, are scarce in central New Mexico.
Cases and hospitalizations have increased nationwide, and New Mexico has been part of that trend. On Tuesday, the state Department of Health reported 250 people hospitalized with COVID-19 in New Mexico. A month earlier, on July 9, there were only 77 people hospitalized for COVID-19 in the state.
Lovelace’s chief medical officer Dr Vesta Sandoval said the vaccinations would help prevent a further rise in the number of patients in hospitals.
“We already have lots and lots of very sick very sick patients in hospitals, we have to avoid another outbreak,” she said.
The demographics of people hospitalized for COVID-19 have also changed. Gonzales said that at the start of the pandemic, people hospitalized “tended to be people with underlying health conditions” who are often older people. But now they are seeing more “young people, not necessarily with medical problems” who are not vaccinated hospitalized for COVID-19.
Among people 65 years of age or older, 75.3 percent of New Mexico’s population are fully vaccinated, compared with only 42.1 percent of 18-24 year olds.
Pediatric cases are also on the rise, but the number remains low, said Dr Rohini McKee, head of quality and safety at the UNM hospital.
She said that at the same time, there has been an increase in pediatric cases of RSV, a respiratory disease that the According to the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention can be serious in infants and the elderly.
“We’ve known since last winter that masking and proper social distancing brings these cases down,” she said.
Currently, the Delta variant has become the dominant strain in the United States, including New Mexico. It is much more contagious than the other variants, although it is not clear whether it has caused any worse health effects.
McKee also noted the importance of vaccinations to stop different mutations in order to create new variants that may be “even more dangerous” in the future.
So-called “breakthrough” infections, or when a vaccinated person is positive for COVID-19, remain a rarity for hospitalizations.
The UNM hospital has only received “a handful of patients who have been vaccinated” and said they were not in intensive care, according to McKee.
Ultimately, New Mexicans should be vaccinated against COVID-19, McKee said.
“We strongly encourage you to do this so that we don’t repeat this again. Every patient with COVID-19 who is in hospital takes the place of another patient with cancer or stroke or other disease requiring care, ”she said .