The New Mexico Department of Health is hosting public drive-thru testing at the Tierra Amarilla Rio Arriba County Annex, at 149 State Road 162 in Tierra Amarilla, on Thursday (4/9).

The testing will occur from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. or while testing supplies last,  according to a press release from the Department.

County residents qualify for testing if they have the COVID-19 symptoms of cough, fever or shortness of breath; do not have symptoms but are close contacts or household members of New Mexico residents who have tested positive for COVID-19; are residents of nursing homes; or have spent time in congregate settings such as homeless shelters, group homes or detention centers.

Currently, the one other testing site in the County is the Española Hospital. Presbyterian Corporate Communication Manager Amanda Schoenberg wrote in a Tuesday email that according to Hospital Chief Executive Brenda Romero, 133 test kits were sent from the Hospital to labs from March 30 to April 5.

Three people are currently hospitalized there because of COVID-19.

As of Thursday morning, seven people in Rio Arriba County have tested positive for the virus, according to the Department of Health.

State public information officers did not respond to requests for the age range and gender of those people as well for information regarding whether they contracted the virus through travel or by coming into contact with other community members.

County Manager Tomas Campos said someone from the Governor’s Office told him over the weekend that one of the cases is a client at the New Moon Lodge, a residential treatment center in Ohkay Owingeh for substance use disorder.

Ohkay Owingeh Gov. Ron Lovato stated in an April 5 update that an Ohkay Owingeh tribal member also tested positive. The person lives in Albuquerque but visited the pueblo in the past couple weeks.

On Tuesday, Lovato said the positive case at the New Moon Lodge “has been contained,” that all staff and clients were tested and all tested negative, that the tribal member in Albuquerque has recovered and that the Department of Health tested 174 tribal members on April 5, focusing on people who may have had or will have contact with the client with the virus.

Local activist Carol Miller and her husband Larry Miller, residents of Ojo Sarco, are two of the other people in the County who tested positive. Carol Miller posted about her experience on Facebook.

Both she and her husband have not shown symptoms of the virus, though each tested positive twice. They were initially tested because they had been traveling.

She said in a Monday phone call that it is important to recognize that even if someone does not have symptoms, they may have the virus, so everyone should be practicing social distancing to prevent the spread as much as possible.

She said that despite the federal government’s failure to adequately address the COVID-19 crisis, state and local officials have been taking the pandemic seriously, and that the efforts she sees in her community to provide food and care for community members makes her hopeful about the future. 

“Our community has come together in very beautiful ways here in Ojo Sarco,” she said. “There is hope in this that on the other side we’re going to understand that community is still the most important thing that we can build.”

Government advice

In an April 2 tweet, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham encouraged all New Mexicans to wear masks in public. On Monday, she extended her emergency order until April 30, mandating closure of non-essential businesses through that date and instructing New Mexicans to stay home.

County Health and Human Services Director Lauren Reichelt emphasized how crucial it is to continue maintaining social distancing practices. 

She said there may be a spike in cases in the County because of the positive case in the New Moon Lodge—when people in a congregate setting are exposed to the virus, the virus tends to spread more quickly.

She is asking the public to exercise in isolated areas, apart from other people, and recommended solitary bike rides and online exercise classes. Española Fitness Studio is providing virtual classes on Zoom, and Zumba and other exercise classes are also being offered online.

On April 6, the County Parks and Recreation Department announced that all County-owned parks and recreational facilities are closed until further notice.

Reichelt said people should avoid going to stores like Walmart, where employees are not being allowed proper methods of protection, and Lowe’s, where many people are going to buy plants for the season. 

She expects that the virus will peak in late April or early May in the County, but even after the peak, people should continue to remain separate. 

“It took us a long time to ramp up to that peak and it will take us a long time to ramp down,” she said.

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