We’re well prepared. We’ve learned quite a bit over the past two years — Presbyterian Rust Medical Center Chief Nursing Executive Jay Sundheimer


With COVID-19 cases climbing nationwide, it may not be long before the latest variant spreads across New Mexico.

There’s evidence it is already happening. Recent reports from the New Mexico Department of Health show recent upticks in cases while hospitalization numbers remain steady.

The impact, however, is unclear.

Jay Sundheimer, Presbyterian Rust CNO

“Regarding the new BA.2 variant, the most recent two-week period indicates that it makes up 22.1 percent of cases in New Mexico and it continues to expand across the state, but we are behind the rest of the country,” said Jodi McGinnis Porter, New Mexico Department of Health spokeswoman, in an email. “We are constantly monitoring trends in New Mexico, surrounding states, the country and globally.”

Factors that will come into play when the subvariant arrives include staying up-to-date on vaccines, testing, treatment and wearing masks, she said.

“We know being up-to-date on vaccines is the best way to safeguard ourselves, our families and our communities and reduce the risk of medically significant disease, hospitalization and death from COVID-19,” she said.

New Mexico has a high vaccination rate, she added, with 72.8 percent of residents having completed their primary series. And boosters are available.

“We recommend that people over 50, along with people 12 and older with certain immune deficiencies, who received an initial booster dose at least four months ago receive a second booster,” McGinnis Porter said.

The number of states hit nationwide is growing rapidly, according to the Mayo Clinic. Daily COVID-19 cases are expected to jump 93.6 percent in the next two weeks, according to projections from the clinic.

That means national daily average cases will climb from 32,861.6 cases on April 16 to 62,693 by April 30, according to an article in Becker’s Hospital Review.

The case rate in the U.S. will also jump, from 11.4 cases per 100,000 people to 19.1 per 100,000 during that time.

Hospitalizations, however, are expected to remain steady and deaths are expected to fall in the next month, according to Beckers.

Still, the number of total deaths is projected to land somewhere between 993,000 and slightly more than 1 million.

Hospitals in the Rio Rancho area are paying attention.

“Like we have during the last two years of the pandemic, UNM Health continues to monitor the latest COVID-19 trends,” said Mark Rudi, UNM Health Sciences spokesman. “We have a plan that is tried and tested and allows us to make changes based on the current needs of our health system. While UNM Hospital has seen a decrease in COVID-19 cases in recent weeks, we continue to operate above 100 percent capacity.”

Rudi added that the hospital system continues to ask “all eligible New Mexicans to get vaccinated and boosted and to get your eligible children vaccinated as well.”

Lovelace Health System “continues to use COVID-safe practices in our facility, which includes wearing masks, washing hands and practicing social distancing,” said spokeswomen Whitney Marquez. We are prepared to move to stricter practices if warranted by an uptick in cases. We are monitoring the situation carefully.”

At Presbyterian Rust Medical Center, “what we’re doing is paying attention,” said Chief Nursing Executive Jay Sundheimer.

“We’re well prepared,” he said. “We’ve learned quite a bit over the past two years.”

The Rio Rancho hospital is also looking at when to mask up, visitor policies and how to get supplies quickly when needed, he said.

“I’ll tell you what we’re also doing,” Sundheimer said. “We’re talking with our staff about what we did well the past two years and what we can do better.”

The thing is, he added, the health-care system can’t defeat COVID-19 by itself. The community needs to help.

“We need full community participation to help us in the future,” Sundheimer said. “With that support, I am confident and optimistic that we can get through it. I trust our team with what we can do and what we are capable of, but what we really need is for the public to get the booster. Vaccines are still the most effective thing we can do.”

Presbyterian is also, he added, still using temporary help to keep the staff at high levels, but is also looking for employees.

Sundheimer said he is optimistic that hospitals will continue to be ready to fight back against the subvariant but not have to use those plans.

Still, he added: “If anyone is worried about the situation, I think the two most important things are to get your booster and to continue to a wear mask if you feel that’s the right thing to do.”