Editor’s note: This post includes updates related to COVID-19 and its effects on Albuquerque and the rest of the state.
81 new COVID-19 cases in NM, 1 more death
The number of coronavirus cases in New Mexico jumped to 624, as state health officials announced 81 new positive tests on Sunday.
The death toll has climbed to 12 after a man in his 40s from McKinley County died on Sunday.
The new numbers released by the Department of Health include three additional cases out of La Vida Llena, a long term care facility in Albuquerque. Two more workers and one more resident have tested positive for COVID-19, bringing the total number of cases there to 38.
— Katy Barnitz
Which contacts of COVID-19 patients are being traced?
Immediately after being notified that she tested positive for COVID-19 last month, Jennifer Burrill began making a list of everywhere she’d been and everyone she’d come into contact with since March 3. That’s the date she first began experiencing a sickness, similar to seasonal allergies, that she now worries was actually the virus.
The 48-year-old public defender and vice president of the New Mexico Criminal Defense Lawyers Association came up with 74 names, which she provided to the New Mexico Department of Health.
But the DOH epidemiologists conducted active contact tracing and monitoring only of people who had a close interaction with her between March 18 and the time she began home isolation after experiencing a vicious coughing fit three days later, according to a letter sent to the boss at the Law Office of the Public Defender. That was hardly anyone, Burrill said.
— Elise Kaplan
Lovelace Health System and Presbyterian Healthcare Services authorize masking
Both the Lovelace Health System and Presbyterian Healthcare Services are authorizing all hospital and clinic employees to wear a mask, according to a joint news release.
“We feel that masking all of our hospital staff will help protect not only our employees, but also our patients and their family members from infection,” Ron Stern, Lovelace Health System CEO, said.
According to the release, the Centers for Disease Control has not instructed mandatory masking for healthcare workers.
The mandate is for all employees of the two companies, not just for employees in direct contact with patients.
— Pilar Martinez
‘It is scary – we need to hunker down’
GALLUP – Tammy Arnold lives in a home with eight others about an hour northwest of Gallup near the small community of Yah-ta-hey, New Mexico, on the Navajo Nation.
The 29-year-old, who brought her relatives into town to buy groceries Friday morning, said she’s trying to take every precaution to protect herself against the COVID-19 pandemic that’s sweeping through the reservation and the rest of the country.
In the evenings, when she returns home, she changes her clothes and washes her hands before embracing her young niece or touching anything.
On Friday, she waited outside the store in the parking lot trying to avoid the stream of people doing their shopping after getting paid the first week of the month.
“The whole outbreak that happened on the Navajo Nation now, it’s a large number,” Arnold told the Journal. “I’m really worried even bringing my cousin and aunt here.”
— Elise Kaplan and Theresa Davis
Virus raises specter of gravest attacks in modern US times
WASHINGTON — America’s surgeon general raised the specter of the gravest attacks against the nation in modern times to steel an anxious country Sunday for the impending and immeasurable sorrow he said would touch untold numbers of families in the age of the coronavirus. The government’s top infectious disease expert urged vigilant preparation for a virus that is unlikely to be wiped out entirely in the short term and may emerge again in a new season.
The blunt assessments show just how much has changed in the weeks since President Donald Trump’s predictions that the virus would soon pass, and his suggestions that much of the economy could be up and running by Easter, April 12. But they also point to the suffering and sacrifice ahead until the pandemic begins to abate.
The nation’s top doctor, Surgeon General Jerome Allen, said Americans should brace for levels of tragedy reminiscent of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and the bombing of Pearl Harbor.
— Will Weissert and Kevin Freking/ Associated Press
Picture: Closed, indefinitely
— Eddie Moore
State health investigators hunt for virus sources
Days before the state recorded its first death linked to the coronavirus pandemic, Dr. Marshall Baca Jr., Artesia General Hospital’s emergency department director, issued a warning to residents of the small town in southeast New Mexico.
“Artesia has a population of approximately 13,000 people. As soon as ONE person tests positive for COVID-19, we can estimate that potentially 1,300 members of our community will also be infected in a short amount of time assuming an infective rate of 10% (infective rates vary significantly),” Baca wrote in an open letter published in the Artesia Daily Press on March 20.
Three days later, a 78-year-old Artesia man died at Baca’s hospital from a COVID-19 infection after presenting himself at the hospital’s emergency room the night before. Baca, at a news conference, said the man had previously refused to be tested for the coronavirus.
How the man acquired the virus in a city at least 40 miles from the nearest big population center and who else he might have unintentionally exposed are questions under investigation by a state Department of Health team that is in a daily race to find the public health answers to this case and hundreds of others.
— Colleen Heild
‘Who saw this coming?”
SOCORRO – Damien Ocampo wears the hat of Socorro High School head football coach, so he draws on this analogy to describe the ever-changing, taxing measures employed to fight COVID-19: It’s like stopping an opponent on fourth down and inches near the goal line “and someone giving your opponent an extra down.”
“I don’t think people realize what this is doing to small town America,” said Ocampo, who also runs a State Farm insurance agency.
That’s especially true in the City of Socorro, residents say, where census figures show nearly a third of the population already lives below the poverty line.
Ocampo’s insurance office is considered essential, in part because it gives financial investment advice. But, these days, it also serves as a window into the community.
“People are coming in here stressed,” he said. “Farmers, ranchers, small business owners, they are cashing out their retirements 10 years early just to keep their businesses afloat. … A lot of people are losing their jobs. I just hope the (federal) stimulus payments do them some good.”
— Scott Turner