Visitation restrictions eased at some New Mexico hospitals

Albuquerque, NM (AP) –Citing downward trends in new COVID-19 cases, top administrators with some of the largest health care networks in New Mexico said Monday that visitation restrictions at some hospitals were being eased for non-coronavirus patients.

The officials said during an online briefing that the changes include longer visiting hours and in some cases, more than one person will be allowed in.

Still, they noted that while the daily case totals have been declining, the seven-day rolling average of infections in New Mexico remains higher now that it was last spring and summer. They urged people to continue wearing masks and to keep their distance from others.

“This is not the time to take the foot off the gas pedal. We are not out of the woods yet,” said Dr. Rohini McKee, the chief quality and safety officer at University of New Mexico Hospital in Albuquerque.

McKee said two factors need to be kept in mind: current vaccination rates and emerging variants. She said it could be the summer before more groups of people are vaccinated under the state’s phased plan and there’s still not enough information on how the new variants will affect transmission rates.

Presbyterian Healthcare Services Medical Director Dr. Denise Gonzales agreed, pointing to mask-wearing as one of the linchpins in the effort to reduce spread. She noted that the public health measures put in place to deal with COVID-19 also have had an effect on flu rates, which she said are at an all-time low.

The hospitals also are continuing with vaccination efforts but said the focus has been on getting people their second shots per guidance from the state Health Department. The agency did not immediately answer questions about how long that would be the case.

Top health officials have said in recent weeks that demand continues to outpace supply despite an uptick in the allotment from the federal government.

As of Monday, data from the Health Department shows over a half-million shots have been administered in New Mexico, with about 34% of those being second shots.

More than 642,200 New Mexicans — 30% of the population — have registered online with the Health Department to receive a vaccination.

Health officials on Monday also reported 237 newly confirmed COVID-19 cases, bringing the statewide total to 183,023 since the pandemic began. More than 3,635 New Mexicans have died from the virus.

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