New Mexico hospitals ease COVID-19 restrictions

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – It has been three long years since the COVID lockdowns and pandemic restrictions, but as we continue the return to normalcy, our state’s hospitals are also starting to return to some pre-pandemic operations. 

The biggest change you may notice is mask requirements have been lifted at all the major hospitals. So, when you go in for a checkup or to visit a loved one it’s going to feel more like it did back in 2019. 

“We estimated that the rates would be low enough to stop using masks by the middle of April, and we all got together as a state, and we met with the medical advisory team to decide to move together,” said Dr. Denise Gonzales, Presbyterian Health Care Services medical director.

But masks aren’t the only change.

“We had things like drive-thru for testing, those are gone. We have mandated testing before a surgical procedure, that’s ended. We had required testing for COVID prior to being admitted to the hospital and limited visitation to the hospital, all of those things have ended,” Gonzales said. 

Even with all these changes, some aspects of the pandemic will stick around. 

“If you are a patient experiencing respiratory symptoms you can expect you will still have to wear a mask, still be placed in isolation and tested for COVID, and the staff seeing, and interacted with you will also wear a mask,” Lovelace Health Systems Chief Medical Officer Dr. Vesta Sandoval said. 

Throughout the pandemic, everyone learned a lot of important lessons and doctors Gonzales and Sandoval say it’s important that we don’t forget them. 

“Now that we have had this time, and we have these tools, we can certainly look at what we have to be able to manage COVID, and talk to people and help them understand that this is something we will be dealing with. It will change, it will be up and down, but we are prepared for that,” Dr Sandoval said. 

Presbyterian and Lovelace officials also discussed staffing levels at hospitals. They say while they are less dependent on travel nurses than they were last year, they are still not at full staff.

The full conversation will air in full this weekend during Eye on New Mexico, Saturday at 5 p.m. and Sunday at 10 a.m.