New Mexico sees drop in COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, deaths
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The mask mandate has been lifted for most of the state – but many New Mexicans are still wondering, why now?
New Mexico Department of Health Acting Secretary Dr. David Scrase took some time to answer that question during a COVID-19 update Wednesday.
"The reason we implemented the mask mandate in the first place was to try and protect and preserve hospital resources, which was the critical resource shortage and when we, uh, saw that basically drop off a cliff with cases and hospitalizations, and hospitals confirmed with their own self-evaluation, we decided that it was time to remove the mandate," Scrase said.
The data shows that over the last few weeks, there’s been a sharp drop in COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths. New hospitalizations dropped by roughly half in the past two weeks. Right now, there are 350 people currently hospitalized with COVID-19 in the state.
While most New Mexicans can choose to not wear a mask, not everyone can go maskless just yet. For example, masks are still required in hospitals and nursing homes.
So is this the right choice when it comes to protecting our neighbors with weakened immune systems?
"I think the main thing that can help immunosuppressed people in New Mexico isn’t really a public health order requiring us all to be masked forever," Scrase said. "It is actually what will help them the most is kindness, compassion, awareness, acceptance that some of us are going to have to continue to take all those same old precautions we did during the pandemic, you know during the worst of the pandemic, and even before the pandemic."
The state’s health department is also recommending that people with weakened immune systems get a fourth COVID-19 vaccine dose. They also said an antibody treatment called Evusheld will help reduce their COVID-19 risk.
Last October, the state enacted crisis standards of care for local hospitals. Those haven’t been lifted yet, but KOB 4 was told that the current plan is to just let the crisis standards of care order expire next month.
Scrase said more beds are opening up – with 35 ICU beds and more than 90 standard medical beds available across New Mexico.