News-Sun Staff Report
The COVID-19 variant of 0micron has arrived in Lea County, hospital leaders said on Monday.
With that, they expect the county’s case to rapidly increase over the coming weeks, and predicting a peak happening somewhere around Jan. 24.
If the variant follows its pattern like it has in other places, hospital leaders expect the numbers to rapidly decline sometime by early February.
On Monday, Covenant Health Hobbs Hospital CEO Dan Springer and Nor-Lea CEO David Shaw held a joint press conference to say the COVID-19 variant already appears to be rapidly spreading in this area as of Monday.
“The numbers have double and tripled between our facilities,” Covenant Health Hobbs Hospital administrator Dan Springer said on Monday.
He said the positive COVID-19 numbers for Monday were more than 100 new cases.
“We saw 100 per day with delta (variant), but likely we will see worse than that with 0micron,” Springer said.
While ICU beds are full at both hospitals, the pair noted Omicron appears to have less impact on those who are healthy and those who are vaccinated but they also noted the treatment options for 0micron are less than those for Delta.
Shaw expressed frustration with the lack of antiviral medications available in Lea County to fight the omicron variant, explaining as of Monday Nor-Lea had one only one dose available while Covenant only had a couple.
Shaw said the allocations for Lea County are about 30 doses every two weeks, and it appears the state is allocating doses first to Walgreens versus the hospitals.
“I have voiced my concern with the N.M. Hospital Association,” Shaw said.
Shaw and Springer urged those who have symptoms to go to a local walk-in clinic to be tested. Emergency room visits should be for only those who are in dire need. Those needing surveillance testing — or those without symptoms or needing a negative test to return to work — should look to other options are like home tests.
“If you have symptoms, come to any of the clinics to be tested,” Shaw said. “Do not come to the ER.”
In addition to the coming surge, Shaw explained the hospitals are dealing with a surge in flu cases as well as staffing shortages, which run about 20 percent at Nor-Lea.
And as of Monday, Shaw said 5 percent of his staff was out sick with infections.
Shaw also urged a patience as wait times at clinics and the ERs as well as availability of beds will only get worse over the coming weeks.
On Monday, the N.M. Department of Health reported Lea County had 213 new positive COVD-19 cases from Friday, Dec. 31 through Monday, Jan. 3. Over that same time period, Chaves County saw 281 new positive cases and Eddy County saw 100 new positive cases. Statewide, there were 7,313 new positive cases over the four days.