Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham speaks at a recent briefing. Eddie Moore photo/Albuquerque Journal.

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham expects November to be rough, she said early in her COVID-19 update Thursday afternoon.

She was anticipating colder weather keeping folks indoors and large gatherings for Thanksgiving.

Lujan Grisham urged three ways to hopefully lessen the ugly numbers of COVID-19 cases and deaths: Don’t spend time with non-family members, wear a mask when you go out and maintain 6 feet of distance from others, even when masked.

Wearing masks and social-distancing are more effective than medications used for COVID-19, said Dr. Jonathan Marinaro of the University of New Mexico’s Emergency Medicine Critical Care Department.

Record hospitalizations in the state, taking their toll on doctors and nurses, plus 79 deaths over the past week are cause for concern. And available hospital beds are on the decline: “82 percent of our hospital beds are full,” said Human Services Department Secretary Dr. David Scrase.

The Department of Health contacted every hospital in the state last week and determined they had a total of 562 beds, with enough health care workers to staff 180 of those beds, Scrase said.

In Rio Rancho, “We currently have 48 COVID-19 patients at Presbyterian Rust Medical Center, with five of those patients in the ICU,” said Angela Ward, chief hospital executive, on Nov. 5.

“While we are nearing our regular capacity, we are able to increase capacity through surge planning. Our surge plans across Presbyterian address many things, such as contingency staffing needs and adapting care spaces to accommodate additional patients,” Ward said. “We are also accommodating the surge in patients through triage and appropriate transfers, in close coordination with the New Mexico Department of Health.”

Asked the same questions by the Observer, in terms of COVID patients, available beds, etc., Mark Rudi, corporate communications specialist, replied that UNM’s Sandoval Regional Medical Center continues “to address the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic using our pandemic influenza plan.

“This plan allows us to make changes in capacity and staffing to adjust for a surge in patient levels. This plan is a road map to help us as we continue to re-evaluate the needs of our health system based on circumstances happening right now.”​

The DOH identified at least one COVID-19 case in residents and/or staff in the past 28 days at these long-term care facilities in Rio Rancho: Advantage Assisted Living, Casa de Paz, Fairwinds Assisted Living, The Neighborhood, Retreat Healthcare, Rio Rancho Center, Sandia View West and The Suites Rio Vista.

State’s death toll exceeds 1,000

The state reported its first COVID-19 fatality March 25; through Thursday, that number was 1,082. A record 23 deaths were recorded Thursday.

New Mexico has recently averaged about 9.7 deaths a day, just shy of the 10.3 average from the peak in mid-May, according to the DOH. The state averaged more than 900 new virus cases a day last week — nearly four times as many as a month ago and the highest New Mexico has seen.

More than 390 virus patients were in New Mexico hospitals Wednesday — more than four times as many as a month ago. The Department of Health has designated more than 22,400 COVID-19 cases as recovered. Per a recent DOH epidemiology report, more than 17 percent of COVID-19 patients in New Mexico who have been hospitalized did not survive.

“We are working around the clock to expand New Mexico’s testing capacity,” Lujan Grisham said earlier last week. “Testing in New Mexico has been and will always be free.”

The state Department of Health planned to open 12 new testing sites across southern counties.

“More testing does not lead to more cases,” Lt. Gov. Howie Morales noted. “More testing helps us identify who is positive and ensure they are informed and are isolated before they spread the virus throughout the community.”

No new public-health orders were divulged Thursday. New Mexicans with non-health questions or concerns about COVID-19 can call 833-551-0518 or visit, updated regularly as a one-stop source for information.