Between April 28 and Tuesday, the number of COVID-19 cases in Rio Arriba County rose dramatically, by more than 70 percent.
By April 28, 14 County residents had tested positive. By Tuesday evening, 24 people had tested positive. The number of confirmed cases rose rapidly over the weekend: by four on Friday, four on Saturday and two on Sunday.
Fourteen women and 10 men have tested positive, according to the New Mexico Department of Health website.
Two people between the ages of 0 and 9 tested positive, two between the ages of 20 and 29, one between the ages of 30 and 39, four between the ages of 40 and 49, two between the ages of 50 and 59, six between the ages of 60 and 69, six between the ages of 70 and 79 and one between the ages of 80 and 89.
The rise in cases represents a change in the rate of growth of confirmed cases: prior to this week, the confirmed cases had rarely risen by more than two in a day. Many days the number did not rise at all.
The County issued a press release Monday requesting that all residents wear masks in public and limit outings to essential needs.
“Right now we’re seeing Walmart and Lowe’s filling over with people,” County Fire Marshal Alfredo Montoya stated in the release. “It’s a concern. The Department of Health estimates for every positive test, up to three are positive without knowing it.”
It states that there has been a rise in cases in places where people are not wearing masks and that New Mexico public health officials believe social distancing and mask-wearing to be the most effective means of mitigating the devastating impacts of the pandemic.
“We are not out of the woods yet,” said Health and Human Services Director Lauren Reichelt. “Social distance.”
The increase in the number of confirmed cases may be connected to the fact that between this week and last, the number of tests administered at Española Hospital doubled––last week Hospital staff administered 112 tests, while this week they administered 220, Hospital Chief Executive Brenda Romero said Tuesday.
Or there may simply be more cases of COVID-19 in the County this week.
Romero said the Hospital is finally able to process tests on-site at a branch of TriCore Reference Laboratories, rather than having to send the test kits to a laboratory in Albuquerque.
The Hospital has had access to as many tests as patients who meet the state’s testing criteria have needed and will continue to have access from the state and from Presbyterian in Albuquerque, she said.
Testing is also occurring at the County Health Commons. As of Tuesday evening, 1,261 County residents had been tested in the entire County.
No hospital staff or inmates at the Tierra Amarilla Detention Center have tested positive after being tested at the hospital, Romero said, to the best of her knowledge––though because of medical privacy laws, physicians might not share with her information about whether inmates have tested positive.
Hospital officials have organized hospital staff into cohorts. If members of one cohort catch the virus, another team can take their place.
The Hospital is following standards from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Protection regarding personal protective equipment for staff, she said. Everyone in the hospital is wearing masks and frequently sanitizing their hands and areas within the Hospital.
Elective surgeries, following Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s March 25 order, have been postponed at the Hospital, which has reduced the institution’s work by 70 percent, Romero said.
The Hospital is also seeing a 50 percent decline in the number of people attending the emergency room.
Despite the significant drop in revenue following these reductions, the Hospital is not laying any staff off or cutting hours, she said. Hospital employees are not receiving hazard pay, however.
Romero expressed worry that people who need care might not be attending the Hospital and said County residents should still go to the Hospital in an emergency and can also receive routine care there.
Through telephone and video appointments, primary care providers are visiting with patients, and if need be, they will ask the patients to come in for in-person examinations.
Call 505-367-0340 to set up a non-emergency appointment.
“We’re concerned that people might be waiting too long or waiting on things they don’t need to wait on,” Romero said. “We want to remind the community that we’re here to care for them, that it’s safe to come access care.”