Hospital Leaders Urge Vaccination As COVID-19 Numbers Rise

DOH reports 688 new COVID-19 cases, five deaths and 250 people hospitalized


New Mexico hospital leaders today sounded the alarm over rising COVID-19 cases at their already crowded facilities, urging the public to seek vaccinations.

“Evidence shows COVID-19 is a pandemic of the unvaccinated,” Presbyterian Healthcare Services Medical Director Dr. Denise Gonzales said during a morning news conference, noting that Presbyterian facilities across the state have seen a doubling of COVID-19 cases each week, rising from 22 patients three weeks ago up to 90 now.

Presbyterian Healthcare Services Medical Director Dr. Denise Gonzales Presbyterian Healthcare Services Medical Director Dr. Denise Gonzales and other medical leaders discuss the rise in unvaccinated COVID-19 patients

“With 167 million people fully vaccinated across the country, we know exactly what the vaccine against COVID does,” Gonzales said. “It dramatically reduces deaths and serious illness. As the Delta variant spreads across the country, it’s really not too late for you to take action and do your part to end the pandemic.”

The health department today reported 250 people hospitalized with COVID-19—a nearly 32% increase from yesterday and close to 39% increase from one week ago.

While Christus St. Vincent Regional Medical Center did not participate in the news conference, Chief Nurse Executive Monica Leyba tells SFR the hospital is also seeing increasing numbers of COVID-19 cases, primarily among the unvaccinated (12 out of 13 at the moment in its COVID unit), as well as increasing numbers of other types patients without COVID-19, such as those who put off medical care, a trend all the hospital leaders say they’re experiencing.

“We’re on the horizon of another surge,” Leyba said. “We know that because we’re seeing the rest of the country. We’re seeing our numbers in the rest of New Mexico go up. The pandemic is not over and what we don’t want to do is for it to get to a point to continue to infect others.” Leyba also noted that Christus has had requests for beds from neighboring states—Oklahoma, Texas, Arizona and Colorado: “About a week ago we were able to bring additional patients,” she said. “Right now, the beds we have, we have to manage [for] Santa Fe.”

Hospital officials in the morning news conference also said the type of patients they are seeing has changed from the earlier part of the pandemic, before vaccines were available, when many patients were older with underlying conditions.

“We are seeing younger patients with better health and well over 90% are not vaccinated,” University of New Mexico Hospital Chief Quality & Safety Officer Dr. Rohini McKee said.

The health department’s most recent demographic report on COVID-19 cases—for the week ending Aug. 1, had incomplete data, but does show an uptick in the 18-34-year-old age group.

Aug. 1 COVID-19 demographics

While the return to an update from hospital officials amid rising cases echoed last winter’s pandemic, circumstances have changed.

“We are not starting at a place where we have a lot of capacity,” McKee said, “but we are also starting where we have a very effective weapon against this virus.”

As they repeated requests for people to seek vaccines if they have not already, hospital leaders say they also use every opportunity to discuss vaccination with their own unvaccinated patients.

Gonzales, who is a pulmonary critical care physician, says when she sees unvaccinated patients, “who are ill with COVID, I do take some time when it’s appropriate to have a discussion. It’s something that’s important, it’s something I’m passionate about and I think each of us as individuals have to find the right way to connect with them.”

Lovelace Chief Medical Officer Dr. Vesta Sandoval says at Lovelace “we’ve started trying to have those conversations in the emergency room or on discharge from the the hospital,” not only with people who have had COVID, but with people in the facility for other reasons and “to offer the shot on discharge.”

At UNM, Rohini says, health care workers “use every opportunity we can to talk to the patients and their family members about the importance of vaccination,” and to dispel the myth that contracting COVID provides the same level of immunity as a vaccine: “It does not,” she said. “we have very good studies now that pretty conclusively tell us your immunity, especially to different types of variants, is much better with a vaccine than with a COVID infection.”

At Christus, Lebya says, for several months, physicians meet one-on-one with any unvaccinated patients.

The hospital leaders, along with TriCore Reference Laboratories Medical Director of Infectious Disease Dr. Karissa Culbreath, also reinforced the need for people to continue being tested for COVID-19, regardless of their vaccination status, in order to avoid spreading the disease to others.

DOH has been “seeing an increase in demand for tests,” DOH spokesperson Hannah Long tells SFR via email, “and have been working on increasing testing capacity and evaluating what we do have now, especially in the metro area. We are also working on increasing laboratory capacity as well.”

New Mexico health officials today reported 688 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the statewide total so far to 215,781. The health department has designated 197,786 of those cases as recovered.

Bernalillo County had 202 new cases, followed by Lea County with 131 and Eddy County with 68. Santa Fe County had 13 new cases.

The state also announced five additional deaths, two recent and three from more than 30 days ago; according to DOH, deaths are only reported as COVID-19 deaths once a death certificate has been issued, and some have been delayed due to insufficient information. There have now been 4,430 fatalities.

Currently, 74.2% of New Mexicans 18 years and older have had at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and 65.5% are fully vaccinated. In the 12-17-year-old age group, 53.0% have had at least one dose and 40.8% are fully vaccinated. In Santa Fe County among adults 18 years and older, 86.1% have had at least one dose and 76.2% are fully inoculated.

Through August, New Mexicans are eligible for $100 when they obtain a vaccination.

New cases

  • 202 new cases in Bernalillo County
  • 1 new case in Catron County
  • 15 new cases in Chaves County
  • 3 new cases in Cibola County
  • 4 new cases in Colfax County
  • 10 new cases in Curry County
  • 3 new cases in De Baca County
  • 47 new cases in Doña Ana County
  • 68 new cases in Eddy County
  • 2 new cases in Grant County
  • 2 new cases in Guadalupe County
  • 2 new cases in Hidalgo County
  • 131 new cases in Lea County
  • 24 new cases in Lincoln County
  • 5 new cases in Luna County
  • 10 new cases in McKinley County
  • 16 new cases in Otero County
  • 6 new cases in Quay County
  • 12 new cases in Rio Arriba County
  • 2 new cases in Roosevelt County
  • 36 new cases in Sandoval County
  • 22 new cases in San Juan County
  • 4 new cases in San Miguel County
  • 13 new cases in Santa Fe County
  • 4 new cases in Sierra County
  • 6 new cases in Socorro County
  • 1 new case in Taos County
  • 3 new cases in Torrance County
  • 1 new case in Union County
  • 29 new cases in Valencia County
  • 2 new cases among individuals held by federal agencies at the Otero County Processing Center
  • 2 new cases among New Mexico Corrections Department inmates at the Northwest New Mexico Correctional Center in Cibola County

New fatalities

  • A female in her 60s from Eddy County who was hospitalized
  • A second female in her 60s from Eddy County who had underlying conditions.

New reported fatalities from more than 30 days ago

  • A female in her 40s from McKinley County
  • A female in her 80s from Otero County who was a resident of Good Samaritan Betty Dare facility in Alamogordo
  • A female in her 90s from Otero County who was hospitalized, had underlying conditions and was a resident of Good Samaritan Betty Dare facility in Alamogordo

Congregate facilities

The Department of Health has identified at least one positive COVID-19 case in residents and/or staff in the past 28 days at the following facilities:

  • Advanced Health Care in Albuquerque
  • Bloomfield Nursing and Rehabilitation in Bloomfield
  • The Bridge of Farmington in Farmington
  • Casa de Oro in Las Cruces
  • Desert Springs Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Hobbs
  • Elmcroft of Quintessence in Albuquerque
  • Good Life Senior Living and Memory Care in Los Lunas
  • Good Life Senior Living and Memory Care in Artesia
  • Good Life Senior Living in Portales
  • Laguna Rainbow Care Center in Casa Blanca
  • Las Palomas Center in Albuquerque
  • Miners Colfax Medical Center in Raton
  • MorningStar Assisted Living and Memory Care of Albuquerque
  • MorningStar Assisted Living and Memory Care of facility of Rio Rancho
  • The Neighborhood in Rio Rancho Assisted Living in Rio Rancho
  • Sierra Health Care Center in Truth or Consequences
  • Silver Wings Assisted Living in Albuquerque
  • Skies Healthcare and Rehabilitation Center in Albuquerque
  • Sunset Vila Nursing Home in Roswell
  • The Rehabilitation Center of Albuquerque
  • The Rio at Las Estancias in Albuquerque
  • The Watermark at Cherry Hills in Albuquerque
  • Vida Encantada Nursing & Rehabilitation in Las Vegas

Statewide cases

County totals are subject to change upon further investigation and determination of residency of individuals positive for COVID-19.

  • Bernalillo County: 62,175
  • Catron County: 106
  • Chaves County: 9,465
  • Cibola County: 2,963
  • Colfax County: 830
  • Curry County: 5,651
  • De Baca County: 192
  • Doña Ana County: 25,819
  • Eddy County: 7,829
  • Grant County: 1,816
  • Guadalupe County: 486
  • Harding County: 13
  • Hidalgo County: 469
  • Lea County: 9,022
  • Lincoln County: 1,962
  • Los Alamos County: 570
  • Luna County: 3,489
  • McKinley County: 12,720
  • Mora County: 184
  • Otero County: 4,355
  • Quay County: 612
  • Rio Arriba County: 3,965
  • Roosevelt County: 2,165
  • Sandoval County: 12,888
  • San Juan County: 16,260
  • San Miguel County: 1,530
  • Santa Fe County: 11,084
  • Sierra County: 805
  • Socorro County: 1,372
  • Taos County: 1,831
  • Torrance County: 932
  • Union County: 267
  • Valencia County: 7,288

Cases among people being held by federal agencies

  • Cibola County Correctional Center: 451
  • Otero County Federal Prison Facility: 453
  • Otero County Processing Center: 433
  • Torrance County Detention Facility: 333

Cases among people being held by the New Mexico Department of Corrections

  • Central New Mexico Correctional Facility in Valencia County: 302
  • Guadalupe County Correctional Facility: 255
  • Lea County Correctional Facility: 762
  • Northeast New Mexico Correctional Facility in Union County: 169
  • Northwest New Mexico Correctional Center in Cibola County: 130
  • Otero County Prison Facility: 473
  • Penitentiary of New Mexico in Santa Fe County: 219
  • Roswell Correctional Center: 229
  • Southern New Mexico Correctional Facility in Doña Ana County: 231
  • Springer Correctional Center in Colfax County: 151
  • Western New Mexico Correctional Facility in Cibola County: 75

*Per the health department, hospitalization figures include people who were tested elsewhere but are hospitalized in New Mexico, but don’t include people who were tested here but are hospitalized out of state.

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