coronavirus testing israel sanchez

Israel Sanchez, of Española, was one of at least 1,273 people in New Mexico tested for Coronavirus as of Tuesday. Medical staff are testing for the virus outside the Española Hospital emergency room entrance, shown behind Sanchez.

At least 65 people tested positive for COVID-19 in New Mexico as of Sunday evening, a little over a week after Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham declared a statewide public health emergency.

As of Sunday evening, no cases were confirmed in Rio Arriba County.

One case of the virus was found in San Miguel County, one case in San Juan County, one case in Lea County,  two cases in McKinley County, two cases in Socorro County, three cases in Taos County, four cases in Doña Ana County, seven cases in Sandoval County, 10 cases in Santa Fe County and 34 cases in Bernalillo County.

5,386 people in New Mexico were tested for the virus as of Sunday evening, according to the New Mexico Department of Health Website.

Labs are looking at a few hundred specimens each day and may establish 24-hour shifts to increase the ability to process tests, New Mexico Department of Health Media Manager David Morgan wrote in a Tuesday email. 

Tripp Stelnicki, director of communications for Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, said the number of tests the state has changes by the hour but that the state has sufficient capacity currently to test everyone who is symptomatic.

As of Tuesday afternoon, 45 test kits had been sent from Española Hospital to labs for COVID-19 testing, Presbyterian Healthcare Services Corporate Communication Manager Amanda Schoenberg wrote in a Tuesday email.

Schoenberg was not able to provide a definitive number for everyone who has been screened at the hospital, she wrote.

The hospital is the one health center in the County that has performed tests as of Tuesday. 

Presybterian is now providing free online and video screenings for all community members, according to a Tuesday press release. Before getting tested for the virus, patients must be screened to find out if the test is necessary. To be screened, patients can visit phs.org/covid-19 for a free video or online visit. 

They can also contact the state coronavirus hotline at 1-855-600-3453.

Eighty percent of cases of Coronavirus are mild. Symptoms include fever, tiredness and a dry throat, according to the World Health Organization.

About one out of six people with the virus develops difficulty breathing and becomes seriously ill. Elderly people and people with underlying health conditions are most at risk for becoming seriously ill.

The virus spreads through contact with infected respiratory droplets, which people may inhale after an infected person coughs, exhales or sneezes.

County procedure

Rio Arriba County Officials have released the following guidelines about what to do during the COVID-19 outbreak:

“If you’re sick with flu-like symptoms stay home. Flu like symptoms include: fever, chills, muscle aches, cough, congestion, runny nose, headaches and fatigue. Provide self-care until you are either fever-free for 24 hours without medications or until you need emergency care.

“If you have an emergency need that requires an ambulance, call 911. Tell the dispatcher you are having flu like symptoms so that the Ambulance Staff can prepare with protective gear.

“For Emergency Room visits, please call ahead to Presbyterian Hospital (505) 753-7111. Hospital staff will direct you to the appropriate entrance. Please wear a surgical mask, if you have one, when around other people and before you get to the ER. If you need someone to accompany you, keep it to one person.

“If you would like to discuss your signs and symptoms with a medical provider, first call your primary care provider or your insurance provider’s Nurse Hotline Number (on the back of your insurance card). You can also arrange for e-visits or online video chats with an RN or MD. The State Corona Hotline 855-600-3453 can also be contacted for guidance.”

County Health and Human Services Director Lauren Reichelt has also asked members of the public not to buy tons of masks.

“We really need to preserve as many masks as we can for our first responders and doctors and nurses,” she said. 

County Manager Tomas Campos did find a large store of masks left over from the swine flu response that officials have distributed to health care providers in the region.

County officials have also managed to set up a screening area in the conference room of the County Health and Human Services complex where anyone entering the building will be asked whether they are experiencing flu-like symptoms and whether and where they have traveled recently.

Reichelt released a statement March 12 explaining the importance of following the County’s procedures, given the County’s shortage of medical personnel.

“Approximately 20 percent of COVID-19 illness requires hospitalization and we have 34 beds at Presbyterian Espanola Hospital that can be used,” she wrote. “Many of these beds are filled with people who are suffering from other illnesses. We estimate that we can handle 16 to 20 COVID-19 hospitalizations before we become overwhelmed. That means we can effectively address from 80 to 100 cases of COVID-19 in the Española Valley, which is the hospital’s catchment area.”

She said in a March 13 interview that it is not clear what facilities the County would use if the number of seriously ill patients exceeded the hospital’s capacities and that officials are currently working on a plan. 

It is by no means certain the hospital will become overwhelmed, she said. 

The clinics

Las Clínicas Del Norte, La Clínica del Pueblo de Rio Arriba and El Centro Family Health all ask that patients call ahead of time before they visit one of the clinics. Staff are screening people for flu-like symptoms at the door of each clinic.

For Las Clínicas, the Abiquiú clinic can be reached at 505-685-4479; the El Rito clinic can be reached at 575-581-4728; and the Ojo Caliente Clinic at 505-583-2191.

El Centro Family Health can be reached at 800-284-7284.

La Clínica del Pueblo can be reached at 575-588-7252.

As of Tuesday, neither Las Clínicas nor El Centro had the ability to test patients for the virus currently because they do not have all the personal protective equipment––masks, goggles, gowns and gloves––required to perform the tests. They are referring patients to Tricore and Labcorp, the two labs in the state that are performing tests.

La Clínica del Pueblo has limited personal protective equipment and fewer than 10 tests, Executive Director Darren DeYapp said.

He said they have not had to use the tests on anyone yet, as no one has come in with symptoms.

All clinics are attempting to provide as much care by telephone as possible, and La Clínica is rescheduling all routine and non-urgent appointments for at least the next three weeks.

Senior centers

Reichelt wrote in the March 12 statement that because mortality rates increase steeply for senior citizens, the County is closing its adult day care program until April 30 or further notice. County staff will drive meals and eventually activity kits to people’s homes.

Instead of congregate meals, seniors can pick up a “to-go” meal at County senior centers. Staff will also call and check in with seniors who frequent the centers. Police may check on seniors who do not have a phone.

Staff will deliver home-delivered meals as usual during the week and on Fridays will deliver frozen meals for the weekend.

Reichelt said March 11 that elderly people raising children should try to find younger people to take the children to the doctor if the children feel sick so that the elderly people do not have to sit in the waiting room and increase their risk of infection.

Gatherings, offices and suspensions

It will be important for all people to avoid large public meetings, Reichelt said.

New Mexico Health Secretary Kathy Kunkel on Wednesday banned gatherings of more than 10 people. The order also mandates the closure of all restaurants and breweries to dine-in customers, indoor shopping malls, recreational facilities and spas, theaters and flea markets. 

 State officials are urging everyone to stay home who can.

The Catholic Church has postponed the annual pilgrimage to the Santuario de Chimayó until the Department of Health lifts its ban on mass gatherings, and has canceled all Masses. 

Reichelt has asked her staff to work from home at varying intervals, taking turns being in the office to limit how many people are present there at once.

Campos said in a Monday phone call that the staff in the clerk’s, assessor’s, manager’s and treasurer’s offices will continue to attend the offices, because they need the technology there in order to work. But they will distance themselves from each other and from members of the public who enter the offices.

Campos bought four foggers to disinfect County buildings, and County officials are working to figure out how they will ration cleaning supplies during a time when they are vanishing from the shelves.

As oil prices plummet because of the virus, stocks drop and local businesses struggle to come up with plans for moving forward, utility companies are suspending disconnects for unpaid bills.

New Mexico Gas Company Communications Manager Tim Korte wrote in a Monday email that the company will suspend disconnects for non-payment through April 6.

Jemez Mountains Electric Cooperative will suspend disconnects for non-payment and has not yet put an end date on that suspension, General Manager Ernesto Gonzales and Board President Leo Marquez said Tuesday.

For more information

Reichelt will be on KDCE Radio, 950 AM, Monday through Friday at 7:30am with updates.

She has asked everyone in the County to sign up for the EMS disaster alert system, through which people can receive alerts tailored to their community, at the following link: local.nixle.com/signup/widget/i/6807

Please regularly check the World Health Organization website (who.int); the New Mexico Department of Health website (nmhealth.org); and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website (cdc.gov).

The Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center is also an excellent source of information and can be found at coronavirus.jh.edu

The World Health Organization has issued the following recommendations:

• Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly.

• Maintain at least 3 feet of distance between yourself and anyone who is coughing or sneezing.

• Cover your mouth and nose with your bent elbow or with a tissue—not with your hand—when you cough or sneeze.

• Stay home if you feel unwell, even if you have mild symptoms.

• If you have a fever, cough and difficulty breathing, do not wait to seek medical care.

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