While a lot of us are caught up in watching the vote count in the presidential race this morning, the disturbing rise in COVID-19 infections in New Mexico this week has reminded me that who will lead this country for the next four years isn’t the only major story.
“November is done,” Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said yesterday during an online COVID media briefing.
During the briefing, the daily update on infections and deaths popped into my inbox announcing 862 new cases and 23 deaths, jarring me out of a now familiar routine of tuning into COVID briefings and, this week, monitoring election results.
Yesterday’s death count far surpassed the previous record of 14 deaths in a single day. What Lujan Grisham meant by saying that November was done, was that those fatalities were seeded in October or September and now all we can do is make it through what will likely be a grim November.
We are experiencing a horrific surge in COVID cases, throughout the state, far exceeding last spring, or the second peak in the summer.
The backdrop is a hospital system busting at the seams. The ICU beds in the state are perilously close to being completely maxed out. The following graphs from yesterday’s briefing show that capacity could be exceeded in one to two weeks. When that happens, the hospitals will move into crisis standards of care.
As we all know, New Mexico has a large percentage of people who are elderly or have underlying medical conditions, and we have limited hospital capacity compared to other states.
This utterly wretched pandemic has truly brought home the meaning of the term, “doubling down.” I bandy it around a lot, but now, I’m having to really examine the effort it takes to meaningfully stay the course.
It’s difficult for me, but I know for so many of you, too. Especially folks with children. It’s taking a toll, right as the COVID cases and hospitalizations surge to levels we expected in the spring. And we’re headed into the dark, cold months of winter that push us indoors; the season of holidays that bring our families together.
But we’re called on to stay the course, to double down.
What does that mean? The message remains the same:
- Wear a mask.
- Wash your hands often and well.
- Maintain at least six feet distance from others outside your “safe” group, i.e. family and friends you’ve established COVID safe practices and agreements with.
- Limit or don’t spend time with people not in your safe group,
- Don’t gather in large groups.
Regarding that last point, recent media reports and, yesterday, Dr. David Scrase, the governor’s Human Services secretary, made clear that COVID has killed multiple members of more than one family after they held large family gatherings. These are perhaps the most tragic stories of this pandemic.