Drive up saliva testing for COVID-19 has started at Northern New Mexico College campus.
Deputy Secretary for Workforce Solutions Ricky Serna said the goal was to increase New Mexico’s testing capacity. The oral swabs are processed by the private company Curative.
The oral swabs are self administered and the testing is being handled by troops from New Mexico National Guard.
State Public Affairs Officer for the New Mexico National Guard Joesph Vigil said that throughout the COVID-19 pandemic the New Mexico National Guard had been supporting different aspects of relief throughout the state.
“Through this COVID we’ve done lots of specimen transfer, delivered food boxes and PPE to our first responders, a bit of everything, and this is the next phase of handling this and expanding testing,” Vigil said.
“Our results come back in three days, this frees up state labs,” Serna said. “This has been a good partnership with the county, the state, the city and Curative came together with some form of resources so we are ready to rumble.”
Delays in the supply chain for the testing reagent used for the nasal swabs have resulted in tests coming back over a week later from the state Department of Health Rio Arriba, according to County Director of Health and Human Services Lauren Reichelt. This delay in testing also created delays in contact tracing making tracking sources of outbreak nearly impossible she said.
Serna said the goal of Northern’s testing facility was to test around 200 people a day but they had intentionally under promoted its existence for its first week of operation to give the soldiers working the tests the time to work out kinks in the drive through and testing method.
As per Governor Michele Lujan Grisham’s orders as of Wednesday (12/2) the state of New Mexico was moved to a county by county enforcement framework. The order issued Monday instituted what’s called the Red to Green Framework for guiding counties on what was safe to reopen.
A green county can open essential retail facilities and outdoor activities as well as restaurants at 50 percent capacity, while a red county limits essential retail to 25 percent of maximum capacity and indoor dining is prohibited. As well as other restrictions.
“I think overall it’s a very sound system,” Reichelt said. “You don’t have to shut down the entire state if it’s focused.”
However enforcement was still a concern for Reichelt.
“Some counties just aren’t going to, and some of our more rural counties don’t have the ability to,” she said.
The state Department of Health states Rio Arriba County is still in the red.
Two people have tested positive for COVID-19 at the County treasurer’s office in Española. Currently the office is not open.
County Manager Tomas Campos said the employees were nearing their second week of quarantine, the office had been disinfected but it was still up to county Treasurer Livia Olguin when work could resume at the treasurer’s office.
Olguin said one of her employees who tested positive wound up in the hospital and the other is sick at home, so she is waiting until they get negative results back from the remaining employees before work restarted, and she was hoping that would be by Thursday (12/3) or Friday.
“This virus is concerning, we need to be careful,” Olguin said. “We need to wear a mask and stay six feet apart from everybody.”
Residents who need to make a payment at the County Treasurer’s Office can still make payments over the phone or at the drop box at either treasurer’s office or on their website. The county is not accepting cash payments at this time and everything needs to be handled via cashiers check or money order or with a card.
The City of Española reported an additional case of COVID-19 on Monday in the Streets Department, but due to delays in processing the test the employee has already completed their quarantine and is back to work.
Human Resources Director Sally Baxter said the employee began self-isolating on Nov. 13 and was tested on Nov. 16. Results of the test didn’t come back until Nov. 27. The employee is now recovered and meets the criteria issued by the New Mexico Department of Health to return to work.
The fact that there haven’t been any new cases recently gives Baxter hope but she is also cautious.
“We’re now waiting to see… I’m holding my breath for Thanksgiving break, hoping that that’s not going to cause any more spikes,” she said.
Lobbies at City Hall remain closed to the public.
In a city-wide email releasing employees from work early on Wednesday before Thanksgiving, City Manager Xavier Martinez said, “I encourage all to follow the Governor’s Health Order through the holiday break.”