Sunday, Oct. 11, marks seven months since the first case of COVID-19 was diagnosed in New Mexico.
That's seven long months of school closures, job losses, strained finances and a need for incredible vigilance amidst the stress of people suffering from a disease with such widely divergent outcomes.
Let's face it—we are all tired.
COVID-19 is very real. Just ask the families of the 899 New Mexicans who have lost their lives and the many others struggling with the long-term impacts of the virus. Across the United States, about 1 in 1,600 people have died of COVID. The impact is staggering.
And COVID fatigue is real. We are exhausted, mentally and physically, from treating patients, juggling work with kids at home, or not seeing loved ones for months at a time.
This is hard.
But hard times are exactly when we need to pull together, support each other, and remind ourselves of our accomplishments. Let's continue to be an example to other states of what we can do here in New Mexico.
Make no mistake, there has been amazing work here. Thanks to the sacrifices of ALL New Mexicans, we have kept case counts low, expanded testing and maintained access in our hospitals, ensuring everyone gets the care they need.
And, with several potential vaccine candidates, there is promising news on the horizon.
Here is the other good news:
We have learned a great deal about COVID-19 since March, including better ways to treat sick people in our hospitals and care for patients at home, and more evidence about how the disease spreads.
Amid our continued fatigue it can be tough to stay on top of the latest science.
Here's what we know:
- By wearing masks when we are out in the community, we protect one another.
- Adults of any age with certain underlying medical conditions, including cancer, obesity, diabetes and heart conditions, are at increased risk for severe illness. More than 30 percent of New Mexicans have hypertension and 32 percent meet criteria for obesity.
- While children have been less affected by COVID-19 compared to adults, they can still be infected, and some develop severe illness.
- The main way that people get COVID-19 is through exposure to respiratory droplets carrying infectious virus and the highest risks are indoors.
- Current best evidence shows about 40 percent of infections occur without symptoms and infection can be spread by people showing no symptoms.
- Wearing a mask, maintaining a distance of at least six feet, even outside, and frequent hand washing are critical defenses.
- Getting COVID-19 once does not necessarily provide long-term immunity.
Given the scientific evidence, here are some things we CAN do safely over the next month:
- We can see our friends and family if we meet in small groups, maintain distance and wear masks.
- If we are vigilant about hand washing and social distancing, we can pick apples and carve pumpkins with our kids.
- We can be sure everyone in our family gets a flu shot.
- Many of us may also be struggling with mental health needs at this time – we can check on friends and neighbors with a phone call or video chat. And if someone needs help, we can encourage them to seek it out.
Let's double down on caring for each other in the coming months.
We are New Mexicans. We can do this together.
Troy Clark, president, New Mexico Hospital Association
Dr. Dion Gallant, president, New Mexico Medical Society
Dr. Jason Mitchell, chief medical officer, Presbyterian Healthcare Services
Dr. Michael Richards, vice chancellor for clinical affairs, University of New Mexico Health
Dr. Vesta Sandoval, chief medical officer, Lovelace Health System