As COVID cases continue to climb in Bernalillo county, Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller along with public health and services officials held a COVID-19 update briefing Tuesday.
The briefing comes one day after Bernalillo county reported 3,219 new confirmed cases of COVID-19.
Environmental Health Acting Director Dr. Mark DiMenna said the omicron variant is driving most of the active cases the city is currently facing.
“Omicron is still the same coronavirus, it still has a lot of the same characteristics, but it also has a lot of changes that it has brought with it. Most importantly, it is a very fast moving, very infectious variant,” DiMenna said.
DiMenna went on to say that many of the people currently testing positive are getting tested for reasons other than experiencing symptoms. Rather than entering a hospital for a procedure or being admitted for another medical concern.
He attributed this to the effectiveness of the vaccines, saying that most vaccinated individuals are experiencing mild to no symptoms at all.
DiMenna said another positive outcome of the vaccine’s effectiveness against omicron is the prevention of hospitalization. Which is vital now more so than ever, due to the current overflow hospitals in New Mexico.
Officials from the University of New Mexico Hospital and Presbyterian Healthcare Services, two of the state’s largest hospital systems, said Monday their emergency departments are overwhelmed.
And the situation at these hospitals is not expected to get better anytime soon according to these officials.
DiMenna said hospital capacity is one of the chief concerns the city is currently looking at.
“We know our hospitals have been running very full now for the last several months. People who work in that industry are very, very tired. Very frustrated. They’ve been doing this on-going marathon since this started. And they’re at a point right now where there are very high levels, critical standards of care as we’ve heard about. So just assuming if I get sick I’ll go to the hospital is a bit of a gamble because they’re having to make decisions in hospitals about who’s going to get what level of care and you’re at risk of not having space available. Or there being decisions about who needs to be given priority. We just want to do everything we can to push back any further infection and control spread.”
One of the ways to lessen the load hospital systems are experiencing DiMenna said is by taking proper precautions to help stop the spread of COVID.
“The precautions, that’s one thing that hasn’t changed throughout this. We’re still telling people you want to avoid crowded spaces, large gatherings, in particular mixing vaccination status, there’s going to be additional risk with that. The transmission again is really high right now, so every setting that you go to where there is a crowd, there’s a high likelihood that someone in that crowd is carrying an active COVID infection and infecting others”
DiMenna also said hand washing and a properly fitting mask will also lessen the change of infection from COVID.