Health care workers at two sites in Albuquerque are sharply expanding who can get tested for the coronavirus – making tests available, in some cases, to people without symptoms.
One site, in a Walmart parking lot, is offering tests to doctors, nurses, police, firefighters and other first responders regardless of whether they have COVID-19 symptoms.
At another location, Lovelace Medical Center is making tests available to anyone, with or without symptoms.
The sites represent a significant expansion of testing in New Mexico, a key to determining the scope of an outbreak that has caused 58 deaths in the state and infected at least 1,971 people.
“Widespread testing is critical to slowing the spread of this virus,” Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller said Monday, “and it is great to see companies stepping up to create partnerships that increase the amount of testing we can do.”
Until recently, health officials had urged that testing be limited to people with symptoms, such as a fever, cough and shortness of breath, or those who had contact with someone who tested positive for the coronavirus. Those recommendations were intended to save supplies.
The ramped-up testing comes as New Mexico health officials wrestle with a surge of new coronavirus cases in northwestern New Mexico, where the Navajo Nation has been hit hard.
State health officials said Monday that three more adults in New Mexico have died in the pandemic. Two of the three who died were older adults in San Juan County, in the northwestern part of the state.
State officials also said testing had confirmed 126 new cases Monday – 71 of which were in San Juan and McKinley counties.
Altogether, it was the largest one-day jump in new cases. State officials, however, said Monday’s results included some tests that would normally have been reported Sunday, when only partial results were available. Just 47 cases were reported Sunday because some laboratories hadn’t finished tabulating their results.
On Sunday, a testing site was launched in the Walmart parking lot at Academy and Wyoming NE.
It’s the result of a partnership between Walmart – which rolled out other testing sites across the country last week and expects to open more in the next several days – and Quest Diagnostics, which is processing the tests.
The tests are available to health care providers and first responders regardless of whether they have symptoms. Others can register for testing, but only if they have symptoms.
People seeking testing must register and set up an appointment 24 hours in advance, which can be done on Quest Diagnostics’ website.
The site will be open seven days a week and can take samples from 250 patients per day, according to Walmart. Results will be ready in 48 hours.
After announcing that it was testing people with or without symptoms, Lovelace Medical Center tested more than 1,000 people for the coronavirus at drive-through clinics over the weekend.
The hospital was screening for the virus in a parking lot across from the hospital on the south side of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. NE. The site saw 730 patients on Saturday and 424 on Sunday, said Whitney Marquez, a spokeswoman for the hospital.
3 new deaths
New Mexico health officials reported a 13% jump in hospitalizations Monday, from 103 patients to 116 over the past day.
They announced three new deaths, pushing the statewide total to 58.
Those who died include a man in his 80s and a woman in her 70s, both from San Juan County. The third was a man in his 70s from Quay County, in the eastern part of the state.
The disease is most deadly for older adults, but at least 10 of the dead were in their 30s or 40s.
A total of 501 people are now classified as having recovered.
State officials are urging people to stay at home to limit spread of the disease. They say New Mexicans’ efforts have helped slow the growth in new cases. But they also say a projected peak of the outbreak may not come until mid-May.
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