Quay County Sun - Serving the High Plains

Hospital official expresses confidence


April 1, 2020

Despite widespread complaints about the lack of coronavirus tests and personal protective equipment for health workers, an official for the health service that runs Tucumcari’s hospital said she was confident it had enough of both there.

“We are comfortable with the number of tests available and are following CDC and NMDOH guidelines for testing,” Trigg Memorial Hospital administrator Vickie Gutierrez stated in an email Wednesday. “It is important to remember that patients must be screened before being tested. To have symptoms screened for a COVID-19 test, community members can visit http://www.phs.org/covid-19 for a free video visit or online visit or contact the state Coronavirus Hotline at 1-855-600-3453.”

As of Monday morning, Gutierrez said 26 patients had been tested at Trigg for the virus. Three results were pending; the rest were negative.

A total of 281 cases of COVID-19 had been confirmed in New Mexico, including four deaths, by Monday morning out of more than 12,000 tested. No cases had been confirmed in Quay County.

The U.S. had more than 144,000 cases and 2,500 deaths.

“Our supplies of personal protective equipment?(PPE), such as masks, gloves, gowns and eye protection, are sufficient and readily available,” Gutierrez added.

State officials said in a news release last week that other healthcare clinics were struggling with having enough PPE supplies.

“Rapid growth of the COVID-19 pandemic exhausted the supply of personal protective gear at many healthcare facilities and depleted state stockpiles as well,” the release stated last week. “The federal government maintains the Strategic National Stockpile, a federal repository of drugs and medical supplies that can be tapped if a public health emergency could exhaust local supplies, but when New Mexico recently requested its full allotment, the state initially received only 25%, and the equipment that arrived was in poor condition.”

Gutierrez also was asked about the area’s response to the pandemic.

"Our community has taken some great measures to help prevent the spread of COVID-19, such as including 6-foot distance markings in local businesses and practicing hand hygiene,” she stated. “We need to continue to be diligent about social distancing and staying home. If you are out in the community, it should be on your way to places like a grocery store or to get medical care.”

The state last week ordered the delay of non-essential medical procedures.

Health-care providers and wholesale medical suppliers were banned from selling personal protective equipment without approval by the Department of Health.

Motels struggle

One Tucumcari motel shut down temporarily last week amid the state-mandated 50% occupancy restrictions, and another was considering it.

Al Patel, owner of the Desert Inn, said he saw plenty of business from “snowbirds” the previous week, but that was starting to dry up.

“It’s been really bad since Tuesday,” Patel said Friday. “We’ve already discussed the possibility of layoffs with my employees. Worst case is we’ll shut down if we don’t get enough business, if it’s pointless to stay open. We’ll see how the next week rolls.”

Patel said he’d reduced the number of employees from 11 to five in response to the occupancy limits.

The owners of the Blue Swallow Motel, one of the oldest and best-preserved motels on Route 66, announced it would close through at least mid-April.

Co-owner Kevin Mueller said the occupancy limit was a factor, but not the primary one in the closing.

“Even if we were filling all six rooms, which would pay the bills, we still have to deal with all the precautions to try to prevent us, our guests and our employees from contracting the virus,” he stated on Facebook Messenger. “We are in a very risky position. No matter how sterile our rooms are, the travelers who arrive every day could be in contact with the virus in a thousand different places while traveling.

“Additionally, it is impossible to provide something that has become known as ‘the Blue Swallow experience’ to our guests because of those precautions. People are unable to socialize. We can’t gather around the fire and roast a marshmallow or make a s’more. People can’t sit together and talk about their experiences on the road.”

Mueller added the financial effect because of canceled reservations in April “is going to be extreme” but was hopeful for a rebound later in the summer if the pandemic wanes.

Ray Wilson, New Mexico State Police public information officer, said in an email Friday that officers on March 22 investigated occupation-limit complaints against two motels in Tucumcari. Both were in compliance, he stated, and no action was taken.

Tucumcari’s police chief and the district attorney said last week they were unaware of any occupancy complaints filed or forwarded to them about area motels.

Residents who see businesses breaking COVID-19 restrictions can email state police at [email protected] When submitting a non-compliance complaint, state police want a date and time of observed violation, city, county, business name and business address.

State police said in a news release Friday its officers are not making traffic stops to verify whether that person is an essential worker or whether the travel is essential.


The co-owner of Del’s Restaurant said she’s pleased with the pop-up grocery set up after restaurants were restricted to delivery and carryout orders. She said it would continue until Del’s goes back to being a full-service restaurant.

“It’s keeping people working,” Yvette Peacock said. She said she’s brought back most of her employees and will add more once she launched unspecified “other new things.”

Peacock noted, however, restaurant orders were down 40% to 50% since the restrictions.

“As soon as the snowbirds go through, we’re going to drop more,” she said. “I’ll have to start something else.”

Todd Duplantis, also a Tucumcari city commissioner, owns the Kix on 66 and Cornerstone First Edition restaurants in Tucumcari and operates Mama T’s Road to Ruin in Logan.

He said “it’s a struggle right now” with the dining restrictions.

“My employees are proving how awesome they are,” he added.

Other effects

After its regularly scheduled spring break, Mesalands Community College announced it would resume classes as online only on Monday. The campus, however, is closed to all students in an effort to continue social distancing because of the virus.

The New Mexico Supreme Court last week halted evictions for residents who proved they are unable to pay rent on mobile-home lots.

The governor on Friday ordered air travelers to New Mexico to self-isolate for 14 days.

The coronavirus emergency bill passed by Congress and signed into law Friday by President Donald Trump includes direct payments to taxpaying individuals, expanded and restructured unemployment insurance, relief for small businesses, more funding for hospitals and health-care workers, funds for state and local governments to reimburse coronavirus-related expenses, money for nutrition programs and a moratorium on foreclosures.


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