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Confluence of RSV, Flu, and COVID is filling up pediatric beds in hospitals in New Mexico

Jered Ebenreck/ CDC
CDC COVID Data Tracker
CDC Community Transmission Map, used by health care workers, like Acting Secretary Dr. David Scrase at New Mexico Department of Health, to advise at-risk patients (Left), is the CDC metric of risk, determined by transmission and test positivity rates. It was used by NMDOH and CDC to advise localities before February 25, 2022. The COVID Community Levels Map (Right) is the current metric that combines transmission with hospitalization data like COVID19 admissions and ICU use. Current CDC/NMDOH guidance to the general public is determined by the metric on the right. Both metrics are still available via the CDC COVID-19 Data Tracker--these are for New Mexico from October 27, 2022, reflecting reported data from 10/19-10/26/22. These maps are reflective of the previous week, not projections

Nine New Mexico counties, including Bernalillo, have medium community levels of COVID19 according to the latest CDC data. In contrast, the COVID transmission map that doesn’t include hospitalizations shows most of the upper half of the state shaded in red, or highest levels of COVID spread. Now the confluence of RSV, flu, and COVID is filling up pediatric beds in hospitals.

The Respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV, driving pediatric hospitalizations in New Mexico is hitting harder and earlier than expected. Division Chief for Pediatric Infectious Diseases at UNM Hospital Dr. Martha Muller said this week at a briefing, it could be related to less use of COVID preventions in the state.

"Without some of the mitigating things that we were doing during COVID, it certainly may affect the season and I anticipate that's part of why we're seeing some of the increased cases of RSV now," Muller said.

Associate Chief Nursing Officer for UNM Women's and Children's Hospital Mary Beth Thornton, said 100% of the pediatric beds have been full for 10 days.

"On top of the issues with capacity, we are also having staffing concerns, because there's a nursing shortage," she said.

Since RSV, COVID, and flu spread through air droplets, Muller says simple precautions work on all three viruses, especially because there are no vaccines for RSV: wash hands, wear masks, and stay away from others when sick. She emphasized caretakers should not send sick children to daycare.

"As we go into this colder time of the year and people are  in closed settings more … it really becomes very important to distance if we are ill, or having symptoms," Muller said.

Additionally, DOH reports just under 3% of children under 4 are fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Hispanic children make up 57% of all children ever hospitalized while Indigenous children have the highest hospitalization rate (334.8 per 1000 cases), which is more than twice that of white children (133.4 per 1000).

Meanwhile, McKinley County’s COVID mortality rate now ranks 2nd highest among all counties nationally.

Over 8600 New Mexicans have died from COVID-19 since 2020. The next DOH briefing is on November 10th.

Updated: November 1, 2022 at 4:33 PM MDT
NMDOH informed KUNM on 11/1/22 that the 11/10 Press Briefing has been changed to 11/17 at 1 pm.
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