New Mexico COVID-19 hospitalizations continue to drop

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – CHRISTUS St. Vincent Regional Medical Center released its last COVID-19 patient Thursday, and has not admitted a new one in more than 24 hours.

Hospital faculty lined the halls to celebrate the discharge of 59-year-old George Corriz.

"All of the associates from all departments gathered and were shaking tambourines, and my nurse that has been there since the very beginning, Dana Morgan, wheeled the patient out,” said Clinical Nurse Manager Dominick Armijo. “It was so emotional."

Officials with the Santa Fe hospital told KOB 4 this was a turning point in their two-year battle against the deadly virus.

"We’re actually transitioning the containment units – since this is a different phase and we’re all vaccine boosted – to try to incorporate them within the general population," Armijo said.

Since the most recent COVID spike in January, hospitalizations across New Mexico rapidly dropped from 713 to 107 as of Thursday.

In Albuquerque, the University of New Mexico Hospital has also converted its COVID units back to regular units. Officials said there are fewer virus cases, but the hospital is still overwhelmed.

"We continue to be past 100% capacity," said Chief Medical Officer Dr. Irene Agostini. "There’s been a lot of delayed care, and people have not been seeing their doctor, and so whatever chronic medical problems they have often get worse. Also, as the weather warms up at the University of New Mexico Hospital, we see more trauma."

Armijo said St. Vincent is experiencing a similar increase in non-COVID-related patients.

"There are lots of telemedicine events now, and if you need to come to the hospital, absolutely do so, but let’s just be more just thoughtful of what we’re doing when we’re visiting the hospital."

Even with full beds, both hospitals say they are happy to see fewer COVID cases, and they are ready if the virus ramps up again.

"It’s kind of exciting, but we’re really – I’m really cautiously optimistic because of the ongoing variants," Armijo said.

"Cautious optimism is a great term,” Dr. Agostini said. “We are moving forward with changing some of the ways we do things. However, we continue to watch other parts of the country and what’s happening in Europe, to see if the COVID numbers are going to go up."