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Health officials, restaurant owners adapting to ‘new normal’

As New Mexico and states around the country gradually re-open, there’s been much talk of a “new normal.”

People certainly miss the old normal, but that may be gone, if not forever, then at least for the foreseeable future.

Plains Regional Medical Center Administrator Drew Dostal sees changes in routine medical visits that may last a while.

“That’s a broad subject,” Dostal said. “I’m not sure that going forward it’ll be routine in the sense of what it used to look like. It was very clinical based. We really want to keep safety at the forefront of everything we do. We still need it (healthcare) to be high-quality stuff, but we need to do it with safety.”

Dostal said social distancing and hand-washing will remain paramount, “and anything that will keep us from getting into this mess again as a people.”

The coronavirus has already re-shaped routine medical care. Since COVID-19 hit, only 45 percent of routine clinical visits are being done in person, down from 95 percent or more pre-virus, according to Dostal. He said 55 percent of the visits are now done via tele-health, either on the phone or through an online video platform.

Tele-health is nothing new. The new normal aspect of it is the frequency with which it has been utilized recently.

“It has been something that’s been worked on in a very broad sense in healthcare in general, especially in the United States, with a lot of rural healthcare organizations,” Dostal said. “Before COVID it was really based on the fact that specialists were having a hard time getting out to these rural areas. … This (virus) really has pushed us to the next level with tele-visits.”

A sign of normal coming back is elective surgery, which was not allowed for eight weeks due to coronavirus restrictions. With some of those restrictions loosening in Phase 1 of Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s re-opening plan, elective surgery was allowed again at PRMC as of May 18.

“We’re in the process of bringing those folks in to see if we can get back to where we were as far as performing the surgeries,” Dostal said, “but keeping an eye on safety.”

Still, patients may be afraid to come in for their operations, which Dostal cautions against.

“One thing we don’t want people to do is wait on their medical conditions,” he said. “We’re keeping things safe. … If they’re having an emergency, don’t wait on it.”

The restaurant industry has changed too, with service restricted to takeout, curbside and delivery before the latest public health order that allows limited reopening.

So Sid Strebeck, owner of K-BOB’s Steakhouse on Mabry Drive for the past five years, sprung into action.

“We weren’t set up for takeout (before) because we just don’t do that much,” Strebeck said, “so we changed up our menu and some other things, and we decided to put up a drive-thru menu so we could be efficient and people could go through there.”

On the other side of the K-BOB’s building, Strebeck is adding on an area for outdoor dining.

“We just bit the bullet,” Strebeck said. “We feel like you just have to adjust; that’s what we’ve always done as business people. So we think we’re doing something that our people are going to like.”

The sports realm may be the most altered by COVID-19, with games halted at the pro, college, high school and youth levels.


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