As the number of COVID-19 cases in New Mexico passes 300, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and other officials discussed projections for the virus' trajectory in the state, and shifts in testing protocol.
Today, the state announced 35 additional positive tests for COVID-19, including four new cases in Santa Fe County, bringing the total here to 42. In total, the state now has 315 positive tests.
The new cases and statewide totals are available at the end of this report.
The Department of Health on Tuesday also reported one additional death in New Mexico related to COVID-19: a male in his 40s in Bernalillo County who died Sunday, March 29. He was found unresponsive at home; test results for COVID-19 came back positive today. He had an underlying medical condition.
New Mexico has now had five COVID-19 deaths.
In a press conference at the end of Tuesday, the governor, along with Health Secretary Kathy Kunkel and Human Services Secretary David Scrase discussed shifts in testing policy, as well as projections for the virus' impact on people and the healthcare system.
Kunkel announced the Health Department is expanding the criteria by which people can be tested for COVID-19. The state, she said, will no longer require a referral for testing. Moreover, for the first time, asymptomatic people who have been in close contact with people or have household members who have tested positive are now eligible for testing. The health department also recommending asymptomatic people in nursing homes in "congregate" settings be tested.
The state has more than 60 testing sites, Kunkel said, and testing capacity continues to increase. Currently, the state can run 350 tests a night and TriCore Reference Laboratories can run 1,100. As new equipment becomes available, and with the national laboratories come on board to help,Kunkel said she expects the state will increase testing capacity by 500 and TriCore by 500 to 800 per day.
Scrace referred to a much publicized COVID-19 forecasting report by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, an independent global health research center at the University of Washington. Those forecasts, Scrase said, were "based on some old data," using a model "mainly driven by predictions of the number of people who have died" and New Mexico, at that time had no deaths. That report, he noted, predicted the state would have approximately 55,000 cases and 529 deaths, and was predicated on 2.5% of the population contracting the virus. But 14% of the population have already caught influenza this year, he said, which makes those numbers seem too low.
"A lot of people called me and asked, 'is it really going to be this bad,' and I said, 'This is the best possible case scenario.'" The state's modeling, he said, calls for a significantly larger number of cases: anywhere from 250,000 to 1.25 million people. For every 1% of the population that contracts the virus, 1% is predicted to die from it. Scrace also said the state's predictions for its hospital needs are significantly higher than the IHME forecast.
The state predicts at capacity, it will need 3,498 hospital beds, and supply is 2,500s. It will need 2,175 ICU beds and has 365 capacity. Hospitals will need 630 ventilators model under the state models, and currently has 471. Scrace also said the state's forecasts vary when it comes to when New Mexico will reach its peak infection. The IHME had predicted May 2, he said, but "we're modeling anywhere between next week and six to eight weeks from now." The variance, he said, is because any model the state chooses is an average of all the state's different regions. For example, northwestern New Mexico could experience a surge late this week or early next week.
Lujan Grisham confirmed that the state will be receiving an Army field hospital, the location of which has not yet been determined. The state also will be expanding its capacity in the former Lovelace hospital in Albuquerque.
Throughout the information-heavy session, the governor and other officials repeatedly stressed the importance of New Mexicans continuing to practice social distancing to avoid the worst-case scenarios for which officials are planning. "Social distancing is the most meaningful tool we have," Lujan Grisham said. "The less transmission, the more lives we'll save, the less transmission, the fewer people will go to the hospital."
Officials also referenced New Mexico's current grade on Unacast's social distancing scoreboard (a C-), which tracks shifts in mobility as a way of determining how well people are doing in changing their behavior.
While thanking many businesses and New Mexicans for abiding by increasing restrictions in response to COVID-19, the governor said the state should prepare for those restrictions to last through April and possibly mid-May. She also said the state would be regularly updating the public with specific information and data.
National Guard Major General Kenneth Nava also spoke of the work the Guard will be doing in the state to assist with securing Personal Protection Equipment, testing and food security. Regarding PPE, the governor said the state received 25% more of its share from the federal government, bringing it to 75% of its share, and has placed "hundreds of thousands of orders" from other suppliers.
New Mexico reported 35 new cases today, as well as one case previously reported as positive in San Juan County but was negative:
- 12 new cases in Bernalillo County
- 4 new cases in McKinley County
- 1 new case in Rio Arriba County
- 6 new cases in San Juan County
- 7 new cases in Sandoval County
- 4 new cases in Santa Fe County
- 1 new case in Taos County
Bernalillo County: 129
Chaves County: 10
Cibola County: 2
Curry County: 3
Doña Ana County: 18
Eddy County: 4
Lea County: 2
McKinley County: 16
Rio Arriba County: 4
Roosevelt County: 1
Sandoval County: 29
San Juan County: 32
San Miguel County: 1
Santa Fe County: 42
Socorro County: 3
Taos County: 11
Torrance County: 3
Valencia County: 5
According to the state, county totals are subject to change upon further investigation and determination of residency of individuals positive for COVID-19.
As of today, 24 individuals have been hospitalized in New Mexico for COVID-19. This number may include individuals who tested positive for COVID-19 out of state but are hospitalized here, but does not include New Mexicans who tested positive for COVID-19 and been transferred to a hospital out of state.
As of today, the health department has designated 26 COVID-19 cases as having recovered.