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N.M. hospitals overwhelmed by COVID cases can use 'crisis standards' to determine who gets care

N.M. hospitals overwhelmed by COVID cases can use 'crisis standards' to determine who gets care

Pima County hospitals also stressed by continuing coronavirus wave

  •  N.M. Gov. MIchelle Lujan Grisham at a 2020 meeting.
    New Mexico In Depth N.M. Gov. MIchelle Lujan Grisham at a 2020 meeting.

Hospitals in New Mexico are being authorized to use "crisis standards of care" to determine who gets treatment, as unvaccinated COVID patients are placing an "enormous, ongoing, and unsustainable strain" on that state's health care system.

"In particular, the volume of COVID-19 patients - almost all of whom are unvaccinated - have exacerbated existing staffing and other resource shortages," an announcement from the New Mexico Department of Health said Monday afternoon.

The move comes as New Mexico nears 5,000 deaths from the virus.

"Hospitals and providers are already faced with difficult choices about who gets care," New Mexico officials said. "Now, under CSC, facilities statewide will use a more standardized and equitable procedure for making those decisions. In addition, before a facility reaches this point, they must temporarily suspend non-medically-necessary procedures."

"Because of COVID, New Mexico hospitals and health care facilities have carried an unmanageable burden. Today, the state is offering clarity and support as providers seek to make difficult choices about how to allocate scarce - and precious - health care resources. The goals, as always, remain the same: to save as many New Mexican lives as possible, and to help sustain the health care providers who have sustained our communities throughout this entire pandemic,” said Dr. David R. Scrase, acting secretary of NMDOH.

Despite the move to crisis standards of triaging care for New Mexico residents, “if you’re sick or think you might be, please, call your doctor," Scrase said.

About 2.1 million people live in New Mexico. Monday, state officials announced 1,895 additional COVID patients tested positive in the state in recent days. About 300 patients are in hospitals there.

Officials in New Mexico said there have been 12 recent deaths from the disease. 4,942 people in that state have now died from COVID-19. More than 265,000 people have been infected with the virus there.

There are about 3,700 hospital beds in New Mexico, according to online data.

Across the country, the beginning of flu season and people seeking care that was delayed during previous waves of the pandemic have also contributed to crowded medical facilities.

Arizona data delayed

Arizona state officials said that, due to system updates, there would be no new data on COVID cases released to the public until at least Wednesday.

In Arizona, at least 20,500 people have died from the disease; 2,664 in Pima County.

Hospitals in Pima County have also struggled recently to keep up with the number of patients needing treatment.

With 360 available intensive care beds, there was just a single one not occupied on Oct. 9. Most days, there are only about 10-12 open ICU beds.

Monday, there were 239 hospitalized COVID patients here, Pima County Health Department officials said.

Overall, of the county's total of 2,229 available hospital beds of all types, there were just 10 ICU beds open late last week, along with
111 emergency department beds, and 43 med/surg beds.

Arizona health officials echoed their neighbors in explaining how most new infections are in people who have not been fully vaccinated.

"For August, 87.1% of those hospitalized for COVID-19 weren’t fully vaccinated, while 87.5% of deaths were among individuals who weren’t fully vaccinated," said Jessica Rigler of the Arizona Department of Health Services on Monday.

"No vaccine can provide 100% protection, but it’s clear from these CDC presentations and other sources that COVID-19 vaccines continue to offer strong protection against infection, severe illness, and death. That is, if you get a breakthrough case, your illness is in nearly all cases going to be much less severe than someone who isn’t fully vaccinated, subject to factors such as age and health conditions," she said.

From ADHS:

Vaccines continue doing their job of reducing the risk of severe illness and death from COVID-19. That’s why we’ll continue recommending these steps to protect yourself and others: 

  • Get Vaccinated: We strongly urge you to roll up your sleeve and get vaccinated today at one of the hundreds of providers around Arizona. The vaccine is our best line of defense against COVID-19. It protects you, those you love, and your community.
  • Get a Booster: If you are among those recommended for a COVID-19 booster, please get one. At this time, boosters are recommended for certain groups who received the Pfizer vaccine, but boosters are likely coming for the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson/Janssen vaccines.
  • Follow Mitigation Strategies: Whether you are vaccinated or not, wear a mask and physically distance when you are indoors around people you don’t live with. You’ll find other ways to protect yourself at

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