Serving the High Plains

Q&A: NM Human Services Department

Editor’s note: Jodi McGinnis-Porter is communications director for New Mexico’s Human Services Department. The Q&A that follows is unedited and complete. The op-ed she references is published here.

Q from The Eastern New Mexico News: How many coronavirus test kits are available in area counties?

A from McGinnis-Porter: We don’t have those numbers but testing has been happening all across the state. Let’s get clear about testing and taking swab samples. A swab sample can be taken by an individual’s provider, local area hospital, or clinics throughout the state. Swab samples are then sent to either: the Department of Health Scientific Laboratory Division and/or the private lab TriCore Reference Laboratories in Albuquerque to run the COVID-19 tests. Combined the two labs can run approximately 700 tests daily. State labs plan to go to 24/hour testing this week which has already increased their abilities (1,000 tests run Friday). The message about testing is this: Those who are symptomatic are the ones who are first priority for getting a test. That doesn’t mean they won’t be screened out in the screening process. Plenty of people think they have the symptoms and then are screened and, turns out they have allergies.

Q. How many county residents have been tested?

A. We don’t have that number at hand but are working on being able to report more data. We have updated the website:

to include information on the positive cases in each county and to date there are no reported cases in these counties. Click here to see the county information:

Q. Multiple individuals have said doctors are sending them home to self-quarantine without testing and without instructions or medication. Why would this be happening?

A. See OpEd by Secretary of Health Kathy Kunkel and Secretary of Human Services David Scrase. It explains that not everyone needs a test. Since 80 percent of those infected have only mild disease, and since there is no officially recommended treatment for those not in the hospital, we suggest that you stay home and practice social distancing in as many ways as you can, wash your hands, avoid touching your face, and check the DOH website every day.

Q. We are hearing multiple, unconfirmed, reports, of area residents — and those they’ve been around — being sent home from work because of COVID-19 concerns. Are employers required to report suspected cases to health officials?

A. Employers should send anyone home who is sick to self-isolate for 14-days but, they are not required to report suspected cases to health officials. Everyone should be practicing self-isolation whether they are sick or not. Exception is for essential employees needed during the pandemic (health care workers, emergency personnel, grocery stores, pharmacists, etc.)

The Public Health Order – Limiting Mass Gatherings and Implementing Other Restrictions Due to COVID-19

limits restaurants, bars, breweries, eateries, and other food service establishments to take-out services and home delivery services. It also limits public or private gatherings that brings together 10 people in a single room or connected space. Employers could be reducing staff to abide by the order.

Q. Will test results of individuals be made public? If not, how will those they’ve been in contact with know about a potentially greater risk? If DOH confirms a positive test result, will they work with the organization/individual.

A. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA) protects individual health information. The Department of Health may not release any identifying information about patients. DOH is releasing the sex, general age information and the county where the individual lives. DOH is also investigating each positive test case and communicating with those who the patient was in contact with.

Q. Are there any plans for Clovis, Portales or Tucumcari to host a drive-thru testing site like those in Albuquerque?

A. I am not aware of any DOH sponsored drive-thru sites in your counties but, check with your local area health care providers.

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