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VA doctor tests positive for COVID-19

Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal

An employee with the New Mexico Veterans Affairs Health Care System tested presumptive positive for COVID-19 on March 12 and is in home isolation, a VA spokesperson said Wednesday.

Spokeswoman Paula Aragon told the Journal the facility is awaiting confirmation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The people who have been in contact with the employee have been notified and are asymptomatic and being monitored, Aragon said.

Aragon wouldn’t say whether the employee who tested positive was a doctor or other health care worker. But state Department of Health spokesman David Morgan said a VA doctor is among the previously announced Bernalillo County cases. The doctor had contact with a previously announced travel-related case, he said. Morgan said that the doctor has been appropriately isolated and that no patients were put at risk.

Aragon said the VA has not encountered any veterans who have tested positive for COVID-19.

She said the VA is screening veterans, staff and all others who enter Raymond G. Murphy VA Medical Center who present with symptoms of fever, cough and shortness of breath who meet the CDC criteria for evaluation of COVID-19 infection.

“This may lengthen entry times, so patients are advised to allow for that when arriving for their appointments,” she said.

Aragon said people known to be at risk for a COVID-19 infection will be isolated to prevent the spread to others.

The hospital is also limiting visitors to the facility during the outbreak to limit the risk of exposure.

Aragon said the medical center is equipped to handle an influx of coronavirus cases.

She said the center is offering treatment for veterans. Aragon said testing samples taken on-site from veterans will be processed through the New Mexico Department of Health.

Aragon said veterans who are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19, flu or cold should call the DOH hotline at 855-600-3453 before going to the VA. She said clinical staff will be available to provide care, including nurse advice and triage. The service is available at no cost to veterans enrolled in VA health care.

Veterans are also encouraged to call the medical center at 800-465-8262, ext. 5489, or their local community-based outpatient clinic before going in for appointments. Video, telehealth and telephone appointments may be considered.

Aragon said the medical center is temporarily not allowing visitors.

She said visitors can no longer access the Community Living Centers, Spinal Cord Injury Unit or inpatient units.

Aragon said the units are being strictly monitored to protect patients deemed more vulnerable and at higher risk.

The only visitation being allowed, she said, will be in compassionate cases.

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