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Testing supplies run short for Albuquerque health providers

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Officials with major health care providers in Albuquerque, New Mexico, said Wednesday they are having to temporarily stop COVID-19 testing for people who are asymptomatic as the number of confirmed cases in the state rise.

An unanticipated disruption in testing supplies has forced University of New Mexico Hospital, Presbyterian and Lovelace health system locations to limit testing to only people who show symptoms. Presbyterian also will continue testing for those who have been exposed to someone with a confirmed infection.

Statewide, New Mexico has been ramping up testing over recent weeks, building up the capacity to test several thousand people a day. Nearly 490,000 tests have been done since the pandemic began.

The health care systems in Albuquerque are telling people without symptoms or known exposure, as well as workers looking for clearance by their employers, to check the New Mexico Department of Health website for alternative testing locations.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.

New Mexico on Wednesday reported an additional 316 cases, bringing the statewide total to 17,828. The death toll topped 590, with three additional deaths being attributed to the virus.

The number of infections is thought to be far higher because many people have not been tested. Studies suggest people can be infected with the virus without feeling sick.

Officials with the health care providers said symptoms meeting the criteria for testing include fever or chills, cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, a loss of taste or smell, congestion, fatigue, headache, nausea and diarrhea.

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham is scheduled Thursday to brief the public and talk about the state’s plans for restarting school this fall amid the pandemic. The capacity for testing and the rate of spread are among the factors officials are considering.

In other developments:

— Officials at Western New Mexico University are opting for an online start to the fall semester. The school announced that classes will be offered online from Aug. 17 through Sept. 7. A hybrid model with some face-to-face and hands-on activities will be in place after the Labor Day holiday through November.

Online classes will then resume as students won’t be required to return to campus after Thanksgiving break.

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