Tag Archives: NewMexico

As coronavirus cases rise, New Mexico’s ICU beds are largely full

by Bryant Furlow, New Mexico In Depth, New Mexico In Depth
March 13, 2020

Two days after Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham declared a statewide emergency to marshal public health resources against a global pandemic, and as President Trump announced a national emergency Friday, it was unclear how prepared New Mexico hospitals would be for a surge of seriously-ill patients.

A spike in caseloads would require sufficient intensive care unit (ICU) beds, negative-pressure isolation rooms, mechanical ventilators to help patients breathe, and personal protection equipment like masks, gowns and gloves. Officials at UNM and Presbyterian hospitals report having enough masks, gowns and gloves on hand. But unknown is how many ICU beds and ventilators might be needed for a surge of COVID-19 patients. 

In Italy, both ICU beds and medical ventilators have been in short supply as COVID-19 patients overwhelmed hospitals.  

Currently, the great majority of New Mexico’s ICU beds are occupied. Just 54 of 344 state-licensed ICU beds are vacant.

But that number changes day to day, said David Morgan, a spokesman for the New Mexico Department of Health (DOH). In the event of a surge, the state could convert some of the additional 3,000 hospital beds in the state to care for infected patients, said Jodi McGinnis Porter, spokesperson for the state’s Human Services Department. And the 344 figure does not include ICU beds at the state’s five federally administered Indian Health Service hospitals or the Veteran Affairs hospital in Albuquerque, which the state does not license or regulate.

Ventilators help patients who are in acute respiratory distress to breathe. But one unknown in New Mexico is how many mechanical ventilators hospitals have. 

“The number of ventilators in the state is a challenging number to capture,” Morgan said. “Acute care hospitals, long-term care and skilled nursing facilities, EMS, and other provider types all have ventilators. If the need in the state exceeds our capabilities, there are additional resources available to us if needed, including the Federal Strategic National Stockpile.”

On Friday morning, state officials reported 10 cases of COVID-19 in New Mexico. Two of those patients were hospitalized. One in an undisclosed ICU, according to DOH Medical Epidemiologist Chad Smelser, MD. 

The DOH activated its emergency operations center to prepare for COVID-19 cases, as had several Albuquerque-area hospitals, including UNM Hospital, the US Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Lovelace Westside Hospital, and Sandoval Regional Medical Center.

“We have sufficient personal protective equipment and N-95 masks for employees and are following CDC and New Mexico Department of Health guidelines,” UNM Hospital spokesman Mark Rudi told New Mexico In Depth. Rudi did not volunteer details of the hospital’s pandemic influenza response plan or answer how many patients have been tested.

Some other hospitals in New Mexico and El Paso, Texas were reporting limited ICU bed and emergency department space on Friday morning, due to seasonal illnesses unrelated to COVID-19.

Center for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines recommend that patients arriving at hospitals with respiratory symptoms wear masks and that those with risk factors like recent travel to Italy or China or exposure to people recently returning from those places, be placed in isolation rooms, noted Jeff Salvon-Harman, MD, chief patient safety officer and medical director of infection control for Presbyterian Healthcare Services. 

It is unclear how many New Mexico hospitals could comply if a sudden influx of cases occurs.

Presbyterian Hospital in Albuquerque is following the CDC guidelines, according to Dr. Salvon-Harman.

Like Presbyterian, the San Juan Regional Medical Center in Farmington, which has 14 licensed ICU beds, plans to place suspected COVID-19 patients in negative-pressure isolation rooms, spokeswoman Laura Werbner said in an email. But she did not immediately respond to a question asking how many of those rooms were available. 

Thanks to seasonal flu and other respiratory infections, ICU beds are frequently in limited supply this time of year, even without a pandemic. Some New Mexico communities, like Santa Rosa, have no hospital ICU beds at all. The DOH and hospitals are coordinating overflow and plans for transferring patients to hospitals with available ICU beds. 

“This virus will not be isolated to only one region of the state,” noted Guadalupe County Hospital administrator Christina Campos, in Santa Rosa. “But if we contain or mitigate it through preventative efforts, perhaps we can slow the progress and ensure that the demand for intensive care doesn’t outweigh the resources at any given time.”

Guadalupe County Hospital has three ventilator machines and three isolation rooms, including one in the ER, Campos said.

By closing schools around the state, banning large public gatherings, and calling on  sick individuals to self-isolate, state officials hope to slow the spread of COVID-19 and “flatten the curve” – to reduce spikes in new cases that could overwhelm local hospitals.

COVID-19 symptoms include fever, dry cough and difficulty breathing. New Mexico residents can call the DOH Coronavirus hotline (855-600-3453) to be assessed by a nurse. A call to that number at 1 p.m. on Friday prompted a message that all nurses were busy with other calls at that time and a call-back option.

Patients should call local healthcare facilities before arriving for COVID-19 testing, Dr. Salvon-Harman added.

This article first appeared on New Mexico In Depth and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.

Democratic Party of New Mexico release results from pre-primary convention

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – The Democratic Party of New Mexico hosted their pre-primary convention Saturday.
Thousands of delegates weighed in to select the candidates that will appear on the primary ballot.
Congresswomen Xochitl Torres Small (D-District 2) and Deb Haaland (D-District 1) are both seeking reelection and running without opposition in the Democratic Primary. Senate hopeful Rep. Ben Ray Lujan is also running unopposed.
“You know, it’s always incredible to see how contagious this energy is. What I’m really proud about is everyone here who are the most aggressive organizers in the state of New Mexico, they’re good at what they do — they feel the urgency at what’s at stake and they know we all have to come together to defeat Donald Trump in 2020,” Rep. Lujan said.
The most contested race for Democrats right now is New Mexico’s 3rd Congressional District, which Rep. Lujan currently represents.
Lujan announced last year he was giving up his House seat to replace Sen. Tom Udall.
Below are the results of the state Democratic pre-primary convention:
United States Senate
Representative Ben Ray Luján: 100%
New Mexico Supreme Court
Justice Shannon Bacon: 100%
Justice David Thomson: 100%
New Mexico Court of Appeals
Judge Zach Ives: 100%
Judge Shammara Henderson: 100%
U.S. House of Representatives – CD1
Representative Deb Haaland: 100%
U.S. House of Representatives – CD2
Representative Xochitl Torres Small – 100%
U.S. House of Representatives – CD3
Teresa Leger Fernandez – 41.88%
Laura Montoya – 20.47%
Marco Serna – 13.41%
Joseph Sanchez – 12.23%
Valerie Plame – 5.18%
John Blair – 4.47%
Kyle Tisdel – 2.35%

Full credits: KOB-TV LLC

Coronavirus testing begins in New Mexico

While there are no reported cases of coronavirus in the state, New Mexico Department of Health officials said testing has begun.
State health department officials said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shipped roughly 15,000 coronavirus test kits nationwide, including to New Mexico, and each kit can test 700-800 samples.
KOAT’s health expert said now is the time for prevention, not panic.
“Every patient who comes to a clinic or an emergency room, if there’s a question about a coronavirus infection, should be tested,” Dr. Barry Ramo said.
Ramo said testing is crucial because coronavirus and the flu share a number of symptoms.
“The symptoms are basically very similar. You get fever, chills, a cough,” Ramo said.
But it’s what makes coronavirus and the flu different that is potentially the most dangerous.
“Fifty percent of the population gets a flu vaccine. Unfortunately with this particular virus, no one has any natural immunity,” Ramo said.
While state health officials are not saying how many people they’ve tested, they did say they’ve been monitoring 30 people in New Mexico who recently traveled to China and none of them has shown any symptoms.
But Ramo said someone’s travel history is no longer the only factor to consider.
“Now we’re seeing cases where there was no connection to China, so it’s important to recognize that this can be endemic in a community without ever having someone who was known to be in the epicenter of the epidemic,” he said.
He said good hygiene can keep both coronavirus and the flu from spreading and that’s what people should be concerned about right now.
“I think the most important thing is that people should not panic and they should get a flu shot because that’s still the real danger,” he said.
Ramo said both coronavirus and the flu pose a greater danger to people over 65 and those who suffer from chronic illnesses.
State health department officials said fewer than 500 Americans nationwide have required testing for coronavirus. Full Credits KOAT Albuquerque.

Portion of replacement border wall complete in New Mexico

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) – U.S. Customs and Border Protection has said it completed about half of a 66-mile portion of a new border wall system in southern New Mexico that is replacing vehicle barriers and other blockades already in place.

The Albuquerque Journal reported that agency spokesman Roger Maier said about 30 miles of the 18-to-30-foot tall bollard wall is completed.

Maier says another 36 miles of the project through Dona Ana and Luna counties is expected to be completed in the coming months.

He says future work includes a combination of construction in place of existing barriers, and in locations where no barriers currently exist. Full credits Associated Press

Lab in New Mexico could begin testing for new virus

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — Health officials in New Mexico send off samples from people suspected of having the new coronavirus to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, but the state epidemiologist said an Albuquerque lab is expected to soon begin conducting the tests.
New Mexico has no cases of the deadly virus that originated from China, also known as COVID-19.
State Epidemiologist Michael Landen expects the state to soon begin its own testing, meaning doctors will be able to send samples to the lab in Albuquerque instead of a federal lab, the Santa Fe New Mexican reported Wednesday.
It is unclear when the lab would open.
Currently, doctors call the state Health Department to determine if testing is needed for anyone who complains about or experiences symptoms and has recently returned from China. If given approval, the tests are conducted and results are sent off to federal health officials.
“They (patients) would have to be sick. They would have to be in a higher-risk category,” Landen said.
If an outbreak in the state occurs, testing would expand to allow health care providers to order tests at commercial labs, Landen said.
World health officials fear the virus could become a pandemic with more than three dozen countries reporting at least one case of the disease.
The global count of those sickened by the virus stands at about 82,000, with 433 new cases reported Thursday in China and another 505 in South Korea. Full credits Associated Press

New Mexico governor says sheriffs unwilling to enforce new red-flag gun law should resign

New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham signed a red-flag gun bill Tuesday that will allow state district courts to order the temporary surrender of firearms, and she urged sheriffs to resign if they still refuse to enforce it.

Flanked by advocates for stricter gun control and supportive law enforcement officials at a signing ceremony, Lujan Grisham said the legislation provides law enforcement authorities with an urgently needed tool to deter deadly violence by temporarily removing firearms from people who pose a threat to themselves or others.

Some sheriffs from mostly rural areas opposed the bill in committee hearings as a violation of constitutional guarantees to due process, free speech and the right to bear arms. Public rallies were held for and against the legislation.

Lujan Grisham said sheriffs should have the opportunity to oppose any proposed policy change, but “they cannot not enforce.”
“If they really intend to do that, they should resign as a law enforcement officer and leader in that community,” she said.


New Mexico Sheriffs’ Association President Tony Mace of Cibola County said the new law goes too far by potentially impounding guns before any crime is committed and that he and other sheriffs will assert their discretion over its enforcement.


“We don’t work for the governor, we don’t work for the Legislature,” he said. “We work for the people that elected us into office.”


New Mexico lawmakers last year expanded background check requirements to most private gun sales and banned firearms possession for people under permanent protective orders for domestic violence.


Highlighting discontent in rural communities, elected commissioners declared Roosevelt County a “sanctuary” for Second Amendment guarantees on Tuesday, recognizing the right of the local sheriff “not to enforce any unconstitutional firearms law against any citizens.” The county of roughly 20,000 residents adjacent to Texas is the latest of at least a dozen New Mexico counties to embrace the sanctuary label.


This year’s red-flag legislation allows police and sheriffs’ deputies to petition a court for the surrender of household firearms within 48 hours from people who appear to pose a danger to themselves or others. Full Credits CBS News

Medical marijuana rules change for New Mexico visitors

SANTA FE — New Mexico has stopped issuing medical marijuana enrollment cards to people who live outside the state but will soon allow nonresident patients enrolled in other state programs to buy pot.
Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham on Thursday reinstated a residency requirement for participation in the state’s medical cannabis program by signing a measure passed by lawmakers. Marijuana is only legal for medical use in New Mexico.
At least 613 people who don’t live in the state have enrolled in the medical pot program since the residency requirement was dropped last year. State health officials say that change was inadvertent and invited problems with U.S. authorities by potentially diverting marijuana outside a regulated system.
New Mexico will begin recognizing medical marijuana enrollment cards from other states starting on July 1, under a reciprocity rule recently signed by Health Secretary Kathyleen Kunkel.
Medical marijuana program director Dominick Zurlo says the new rule will allow dispensaries to recognize cards from all states that have legalized medical pot, including neighboring Texas, where medical pot is limited to low concentrations of the drug’s psychoactive ingredient, THC.
Zurlo noted that it’s still illegal to transport medical marijuana across state lines and that the goal of recognizing out-of-state cards is to allow patients to access cannabis just like other medications.
Residency requirements were restored Thursday based on an emergency clause and a two-thirds vote of the state House and Senate, Kunkel said on the sidelines of a news conference at the close of the legislative session.
Medical cannabis company Ultra Health had gone to court to try to keep enrollment in New Mexico’s medical marijuana program open to nonresidents. A district court ruled in the company’s favor before the law was changed this week. Full Credits Las Cruces Sun News

New Mexico soldier killed in non-combat incident in Africa

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A New Mexico Army National Guard soldier from Mountainair, who served as a police officer and volunteer firefighter in the town, died Thursday from a non-combat related incident while deployed in Africa, according to the Department of Defense.
A news release states Pfc. Walter Lewark, 26, died at Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti where he was supporting Operation Enduring Freedom in the Horn of Africa.
The DOD does not elaborate on how Lewark died, but the release said they are investigating the incident. Full credits ABQ Journal.

Report: New Mexico refinery emitting high levels of chemical

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — An oil refinery in southeast New Mexico is one of 10 facilities in the country releasing high levels of the cancer-causing chemical benzene, a report said.
The Holly Frontier Navajo oil refinery in Artesia is emitting benzene levels four times the Environmental Protection Agency’s action level, the Albuquerque Journal reported Thursday.
Refineries with chemical levels above the federal action level are not violating federal law, but must take action to reduce the pollution, officials said.
“These results highlight refineries that need to do a better job of installing pollution controls and implementing safer workplace practices to reduce the leakage of this cancer-causing pollutant into local communities,” said Eric Schaeffer, executive director of the Environmental Integrity Project, an advocacy organization for environmental regulations.
More than 3,000 people live within a mile of the refinery, officials said.
“Businesses are located directly across the road from the fenceline, and Roselawn Elementary School is located just 0.2 miles directly west of the highest reading monitor,” the report said.
Benzene is found in crude oil and used to manufacture plastics and pesticides, officials said. Full credits Associated Press.

28-year-old soldier from Las Cruces dies in Afghanistan

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – A solider from Las Cruces, New Mexico died in Afghanistan Saturday.
Sgt. 1st Class Antonio R. Rodriguez, 28, was wounded during Operation Freedom Sentinel in Nangarhar Province.
Rodriguez, who was born in Las Cruces and graduated from Mayfield High School, enlisted in the Army in 2009.
He deployed eight times with the 75th Ranger Regiment and twice with 3rd Battalion, 7th Special Forces Group (Airborne).
“Sgt. 1st Class Rodriguez was selfless and served honorably; he was certainly among the best in our unit,” said Col. John W. Sannes, 7th Special Forces Group Commander. “Here at the Red Empire, we take care of our own, and Sgt. 1st Class Rodriguez’ family will forever be a part of us, we will assist them in any way we can to help them through these trying times.
Rodriguez was posthumously promoted to Sgt. 1st class from Staff Sgt and was awarded the Bronze Star Medal and Purple Heart. Copyright 2020 – KOB-TV LLC, A Hubbard Broadcasting Company.