Log In

Reset Password

Pandemic crisis standards to expire for New Mexico hospitals

ALBUQUERQUE – New Mexico’s top health official said Wednesday that the state is still on track to lift its crisis standards of care declaration for hospitals in the coming weeks as COVID-19 cases and related hospitalizations continue to decline.

The declaration was issued last fall as a way to ease the strain on New Mexico’s already overburdened health care system. A few hospitals enacted the standards, which cleared the way for them to ration care and suspend procedures that weren’t medically necessary if they didn’t have capacity.

State Health Secretary Dr. David Scrase said during a virtual briefing that the availability of hospital beds increased this week, and the plan is to let the declaration expire March 11. He said the declaration did help the state to get some federal resources during the pandemic.

State data showed hospital admissions for the last week numbered 172, a significant drop from the 430 reported at the end of January.

“Most hospitals are now really feeling like they’re out of the woods,” he said. “We still have hospitals at 100% capacity. We still plan to try to support those hospitals as we are able with additional staffing resources, but workforce still is our key issue here in New Mexico.”

Scrase also addressed the governor’s surprise move to immediately lift her indoor mask mandate last week. While masks are still required at hospitals, nursing homes and in other congregate care settings, he said state officials believed it was time to give people a choice.

“I don’t know that I agree that you need scientific evidence to remove a mandate,” he said. “I think the role of government is to step in when necessary in critical situations and also to step back when you’re out of that difficult period.”

State officials also have sent text notices to about 40,000 people who are immunocompromised, recommending additional booster shots.

According to data from the state Health Department, about 15% of coronavirus-related hospitalizations and deaths in the last four weeks were among those who were vaccinated and received a booster. Overall, about 68% of those who died in New Mexico in recent weeks had one or more underlying conditions.