3 WIPP workers infected with Covid-19, southeast New Mexico struggles with pandemic - Albuquerque Journal

3 WIPP workers infected with Covid-19, southeast New Mexico struggles with pandemic

Three workers at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant were reported to be infected with COVID-19 last week, bringing the total positive cases associated with the nuclear waste facility to 23.

On August 27, an employee at Nuclear Waste Partnership, the contractor that oversees daily operations at WIPP, tested positive for the virus after becoming ill, read a WIPP news release.

The employee worked at the WIPP facility but had not been to the site since Aug. 7, the release read.

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The report followed two positive cases confirmed on Aug. 26. Both were symptomatic and were last at the site on Aug. 20, read the release.

The recent cases brought Nuclear Waste Partnership’s total positive caseload to 18, with three of the victims recovering.

“All contact tracing and sanitizing protocols have been completed,” read the release. “Employees who may have come into prolonged contact with the infected individuals have been notified and are quarantining.”

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Past COVID-19 cases at WIPP

On Aug. 14, Nuclear Waste Partnership reported its 16th employee tested positive for COVID-19 and was last at the site on Aug. 2.

The day before, four Nuclear Waste Partnership employees reported positive results along with a fifth employee of Regulatory Environmental Services.

Two of the infected employees reported that day were previously quarantined due to potential exposure and were last at the WIPP site on Aug. 2.

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The other three were last at the site between Aug. 4 and 6, read a WIPP news release.

Earlier that week, four other Nuclear Waste Partnership workers tested positive with three of them quarantined ahead of the test results and last at the site on July 30.

The fourth was also quarantined after falling ill and was last at the site on Aug. 6.

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Nuclear Waste Partnership’s third case was reported on Aug. 3, with the second reported on July 21 and the first in June.

A worker with CAST Specialty Trucking who worked for WIPP out of the Carlsbad trucking terminal reported a positive test for the virus on July 8, but reportedly had no regular contact with other WIPP employees.

In May, WIPP subcontractors Constructors Inc. and Granite Construction each reported an employee was infected with COVID-19, and the first positive case related to WIPP was reported in April by an employee of the Carlsbad Technical Assistance Contractor (CTAC) North Wind Portage.

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COVID-19 rise continues in southeast New Mexico

While the rest of New Mexico appeared to see some reduction in its increase in COVID-19 cases, the southeast region continued to struggle with the virus’ spread.

Some public health restrictions were lifted last week throughout the state, with indoor dining reopened at limited capacity, as the numbers appear to decline.

Schools in most counties were allowed to offer in-person classes on Sept. 8, except for six counties that did not see enough reduction in positive cases.

Chaves, Eddy, Lea, Quay and Roosevelt counties in the southeast were not eligible to reopen schools, records show, along with Hidalgo in the southwest region of New Mexico.

In total, the State reported 107 new cases of the virus on Sunday, showing a drop off from more than 200 daily earlier this month.

Chaves County saw the highest increase with 28 new cases, records show, followed by the state’s most populous county of Bernalillo with 22 cases.

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Lea County had 18 news cases – the third-highest in the state, but Eddy County had just four.

WIPP is located near the Lea-Eddy county line.

One new death was reported, a man in his 60s from Lea County.

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In total, Lea County had 1,126 cases as of Sunday, while Eddy County had 486.

Bernalillo continued to lead the state with 5,795, followed by McKinley County with 4,195.

As of Sunday, 12,913 COVID-19 patients in New Mexico were reported to have recovered, with 66 hospitalized.

Adrian Hedden can be reached at 575-628-5516, achedden@currentargus.com or @AdrianHedden on Twitter.

This article originally appeared on Carlsbad Current-Argus: 3 WIPP workers infected with Covid-19, southeast New Mexico struggles with pandemic

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