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New Mexico restricts nursing home visitors


Earlier this week, state officials and Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, at the podium, showed a graph explaining why it’s important to slow the virus outbreak in New Mexico. (Eddie Moore/Albuquerque Journal)

Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal

SANTA FE – The state Department of Health on Saturday ordered nursing homes to limit visitors in an attempt to stem an outbreak of coronavirus infections as New Mexico officials announced three additional cases.

The new cases bring New Mexico’s total to 13.

Nora Meyers Sackett, a spokeswoman for the Governor’s Office, said those infected include a Sandoval County man and woman, both in their 60s and from the same household, and a Bernalillo County woman in her 50s. So far, Bernalillo County has six cases, Sandoval has two, Santa Fe has three and Socorro has two.

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham has warned people to prepare for more positives to turn up.

In its new order, the state directed nursing homes to allow visitors only for patients receiving end-of-life care.

Even then, the visitors should have their temperatures taken and be denied entry if they have a fever of 100 degrees or show signs of a respiratory infection. If allowed in, visitors are also to immediately wash their hands and be escorted to and from the patient’s room.

The state has 71 licensed nursing homes and 276 assisted living facilities. The order also covers facilities providing assisted living, adult day care, hospice and rehabilitation for older adult patients.

“Facilities where older adults live or that provide services to them are strongly encouraged to implement the recommendations as is reasonably appropriate,” the Governor’s Office said in a news release.

The state Aging and Long-Term Services Department is preparing to offer cameras and tablets that would allow families to visit electronically.

People can call the department’s ombudsman at 1-866-451-2901 for more information or to request a camera/tablet link with a loved one.

The order is the latest example of how COVID-19 – the disease caused by the new coronavirus – is quickly reshaping life in New Mexico.

In a matter of days following the first confirmed cases, public schools and colleges announced closures, the Archdiocese of Santa Fe halted Catholic church services, and Lujan Grisham banned large public gatherings.

The governor declared a public health emergency Wednesday morning, when testing confirmed the first infections.

Federal and state health officials have also asked people to limit their travel. In New Mexico, the Lujan Grisham administration is urging people to self-isolate for 14 days if they’ve traveled outside the state.

A key strategy, the governor said, is to slow the spread of the virus enough to avoid overwhelming the health care system. At one point in recent days, just 54 of the 344 intensive care unit beds in the state were open.

For most people, the virus results in mild symptoms. But older adults and people with chronic illnesses are particularly at risk.

Health officials say even healthy adults should take steps to avoid the virus – so they don’t later spread it accidentally to someone who’s more at risk.

Journal Staff Writer Matthew Reisen contributed to this report.

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