Northern New Mexico leaders are grappling with how to handle the looming economic crisis and are implementing measures to try to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 before health facilities across the state become overwhelmed.
New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham Monday issued a stay-at-home instruction, requesting everyone who does not hold an essential position to remain at home as much as possible. Trips for gas, food, essential household items or medical attention will still be allowed.
People should not congregate in groups of more than five, and the governor has ordered that non-essential businesses must close.
Essential businesses include health care operations, shelters, food banks, childcare facilities, grocery stores, pharmacies, farms and ranches, law enforcement facilities, infrastructure operations, manufacturing operations for food and necessary household items, security services, media organizations, gas stations, hardware stores, banks, funeral homes and post offices.
The order also states that places of lodging shall not operate at more than 50 percent occupancy and that grocery stores and pharmacies shall limit sale of medications, medical equipment, baby formula, diapers, sanitary care products and hygiene products to three per individual.
Ohkay Owingeh Gov. Ron Lovato also issued a stay-at-home order Monday to members of the pueblo, asking everyone who does not hold an essential position to remain at home.
Santa Clara Pueblo Governor J. Michael Chavarria said in a Tuesday phone call that he has asked everyone to stay home for the past two weeks. The pueblo has been closed to tourists and the school and daycare are currently closed.
“Don’t be going out and using it as a vacation,” he said. “The sooner we adhere to those restrictions, the sooner it will be over.”
He said it is critical to work together across communities right now.
“I know it’s causing some inconvenience for all of us but respecting each other is very critical at this time,” he said. “Nobody is immune. Don’t take this for granted. This is serious.”
People across the state are looking toward an uncertain economic future.
New Mexico House Rep. Susan Herrera, D-Embudo, learned during a conference call with the House Democratic Caucus on Monday night that since the beginning of the pandemic, 17,000 New Mexicans have filed for unemployment as of Monday. Prior to the economic downturn to slow the virus, about 800 people were filing unemployment claims weekly.
Herrera compared the looming economic effects of the crisis to watching weather patterns in the Gulf of Mexico prior to Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
“The storm is about to hit,” she said. “We haven’t even begun to feel the full economic effects of this. It hasn’t begun.”
Asked whether the deluge of unemployment applications adds urgency to ongoing calls for Lujan Grisham to call a special session of the Legislature, Herrera said that all depends on how the federal government responds to the crisis.
The state’s congressional delegation was also on the conference call, Herrera said. As of press time Tuesday, Congress and the Trump administration were nearing a $2 trillion stimulus package to address economic fallout from the coronavirus, the Washington Post reported.
Presbyterian is providing free online and video screenings for all community members, according to a March 17 press release. Before getting tested for the virus at the Española Hospital, the one site in the County currently listed on the Department of Health’s website as a testing site, 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 appear to be more at risk for becoming seriously ill.
The virus spreads through contact with infected respiratory droplets or surfaces infected with those droplets. People may inhale them after an infected person coughs, exhales or sneezes.
County emergency center
Rio Arriba County Officials released guidelines March 22 about what to do during the COVID-19 outbreak, advising anyone to stay home who is sick with symptoms such as a fever, chills, muscle aches, a cough, congestion, a runny nose, headaches and/or fatigue.
The guidelines ask people with those symptoms to provide self-care until they are either fever-free for 24 hours without medications for fever or until they need emergency care.
If anyone has an emergency need related to these symptoms, they should call 911 and explain to the dispatcher they are having flu-like symptoms, the guidelines state. That way, first responders can prepare the proper protective equipment.
If people are planning to visit the emergency room at Española Hospital, they should call (505) 753-7111 ahead of their visit, the guidelines state. They should wear a surgical mask if possible when they are around other people and on their way to the emergency room. Only one person should accompany them if they need be accompanied. Hospital staff will direct them to the appropriate entrance.
People can call their primary care provider or their insurance provider’s Nurse Hotline Number (on the back of your insurance card) if they want to discuss their signs and symptoms with a healthcare provider, or they arrange for e-visits or online video chats with an RN or MD, the guidelines state.
People with a fever, cough or shortness of breath––the main symptoms of COVID-19––should call their health care provider or the state Department of Health COVID-19 hotline (1-855-600-3453) as soon as possible, the guidelines state. People without those symptoms are not generally eligible for COVID-19 testing at present.
The County’s adult daycare will be closed until at least April 30, and County officials are currently organizing home food delivery with activity kits. Meals will be available for drive-thru pick-up at the County senior centers for seniors, and everyone who normally receives home-delivered meals will continue to receive them.
The County has also set up an emergency operations center, operating from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., in the County Española administrative complex. There, officials are coordinating the County’s response to the virus, planning meal deliveries to seniors and managing essential staff.
The Emergency Operations Center can be reached at 505-753-2992 ext. 5388.
County Manager Tomas Campos is urging people not to attend the pilgrimage to the Santuario de Chimayó, which the Archdiocese of Santa Fe has postponed.
The Española County administrative complex is now only open to the public from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
County employees will continue reporting to the offices. Campos said County officials may decide to stagger shifts in the office, so that not everyone has to come into the offices at once.
The County does not have the technological resources, however, to enable employees to work from home, Campos said.
“I’m struggling to keep the doors open to the public and keep my people as safe as I can,” he said.
Employees are interacting with the public from behind glass when they can and are keeping distance between themselves and others, he said.
The U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration has awarded Las Clínicas Del Norte, La Clínica del Pueblo de Rio Arriba and El Centro Family Health money to help with their COVID-19 response and preparedness.
Las Clínicas del Norte received $58,539, La Clínica del Pueblo received $58,539 and El Centro received $66,544.
The clinics all ask that patients call ahead of time before they visit one of the clinics. Staff at each clinic are screening people for flu-like symptoms at the door.
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. El Centro, however, has received test kits and is preparing to be able to use them. Officials from Las Clínicas did not return calls before press time about whether they too are preparing to test patients for the virus.
La Clínica del Pueblo had limited personal protective equipment and fewer than 10 tests as of March 17. DeYapp did not return calls and a text before press time asking whether the clinic had administered any of those tests.
All clinics are attempting to provide as much care by telephone as possible.
SUN News Editor Austin Fisher contributed reporting to this story.