New Mexico health officials say current daily growth rate of COVID-19 is unsustainable


In this Wednesday, March 11, 2020, photo New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, right, announces a public health emergency in response to the state’s first positive tests for COVID-19, at a news conference in Santa Fe, N.M., also attended by Human Services Secretary David Scrase, left. Her administration has banned many gatherings of 100 or more people at spaces such as auditoriums and stadiums as a precaution against the spread of coronavirus. (AP Photo/Morgan Lee)

EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) — The New Mexico Human Services Department presented a COVID-19 modeling update Thursday afternoon to report on the most recent data and procedures. 

“The absolute number of people on ventilators is increasing,” said New Mexico Human Services Department Secretary Dr. David Scrase.

Scrase explained that the profile of COVID-19 fatalities has evolved. In April, for example, 10 of 11 deaths occurred in a nursing home, whereas more recent deaths have occurred in younger people.

“It’s important to remember the character of the mortality of this disease is changing,” warned Scrase, who said that daily cases have increased by 15 percent in the last week.

The Department of Health conducted a survey and found that 55 percent of respondents admitted to violating public health orders by being in an indoor space with more than 10 people. 

David Gonzalez, Chief Medical Officer at Christus St. Vincent, explained the current growth rate is unsustainable with a rate of 4.5 percent to 6 percent growth per day with a doubling time of about two weeks. 

“This means 50 cases per day can develop into 500 per day within two weeks,” said Gonzalez.

The rise in cases marks the first time a prediction of imminent danger by filling all ICU beds was determined, and New Mexico is hoping its team-based approach can help streamline processes designed to support overwhelmed health care and medical workers. 

The team-based care model uses hospitalist physicians, intensivists, ICU and med-surg nurses and respiratory therapists to collaborate. The teams are overseen by the hospitalists, while intensivists serve as consultants and are responsible for ventilator management. Collaboration with nurses enables the teams to care for more patients, while respiratory therapists assist with mechanical ventilation and provide respiratory therapy. 

The teams work by cohorting patients on a COVID-19 unit with processes in place to optimize care. 

All levels of care are administered in a single ward, which has prevented other units from being converted into COVID-19 units. Consolidating in a single ward has also empowered team members to be good stewards of PPE by reducing daily use of PPE, sterilizing N-95 masks and more. Moreover, rounds are conducted virtually with a multidisciplinary team that includes doctors, nurses, case managers, pharmacists, respiratory therapists and administrators. 

A peer-based review team was created in March that educates the medical and hospital staff and offers an internal advice line.

The team meets often to review the ever-evolving guidelines and develop their own policies and procedures. 

To help combat the ongoing transmission of COVID-19, health officials urge New Mexicans to stay home as much as possible and encourage public care and trust in each other.

“Every death is a tragedy,” said Scrase. 

You can watch a live stream of the meeting below:

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