Quay County Sun - Serving the High Plains

Keeping health directives in mind

 

April 29, 2020

Ron Warnick

Nannette Macias-Ray, nurse manager for the Department of Health office in Tucumcari, chats with a patient Wednesday before taking a nasal-swab sample as a part of COVID-19 testing.

So I got tested Wednesday for COVID-19. I don't know whether I'm positive or negative for the virus. I won't know until after deadline this week.

I hadn't planned on being tested. I'd been healthy the entire winter and spring. The impetus for the test came due to an misunderstanding involving Tucumcari's mayor.

Mayor Ruth Ann Litchfield was interviewed earlier in the week on the local radio station. She misspoke or there was a misunderstanding of what she said on the air. Regardless of what happened, a lot of people thought a new directive from the state required all essential workers be tested for the virus.

The state actually encouraged - not required - essential workers to be tested. The state earlier had deemed members of the media, including this intrepid reporter, as essential. Before Litchfield called to clarify the essential-workers confusion, I called the Department of Health office in Tucumcari and left a message to make an appointment for the test.

I could have canceled once I found out testing wasn't mandatory. But because I have at least some contact with the public, I thought it'd be a good idea to follow through in case I was an asymptomatic carrier of the virus.

And the experience might be fodder for a column you're reading now.

At the appointed time Wednesday afternoon at the drive-up testing area on Second Street, DOH nurse manager Nannette Macias-Ray, clad in full protective gear, greeted me and told me test results would arrive in seven to 10 days, but perhaps sooner.

She asked to tip my head back, look forward and keep my hands down to the side as she stuck a long plastic rod tipped with what appeared to be a small piece of fishing line up one nostril.

Macias-Ray said it would be uncomfortable for a few seconds but not painful - an accurate description. My eyes watered as the swab probed my upper nasal cavity, but it was no worse than a blood draw. She gave me a health-recommendations handout from the U.S. Centers of Disease Control and Prevention and a slip of paper that contained the DOH's website where one can check for test results.

The whole experience lasted less than two minutes.

I called Macias-Ray the next morning to get her thoughts. She told me she'd tested a personal-record 27 people Wednesday, most of them other essential workers who heard they should be checked. To date, she'd performed 60 coronavirus tests.

She estimated one-fourth to one-third of the people she'd tested had symptoms. The majority showed no signs of the disease.

She said she'd been treated well by everyone she'd tested.

"I have not had one who hasn't been cordial, friendly and very, very appreciative," she said. "Most are just wanting to know whether they're asymptomatic. They're just wanting knowledge."

Macias-Ray, who's worked for the Department of Health since 2010, said she wasn't frightened about her work, despite her potential exposure to COVID-19.

"I wear my PPE when I test," she said. "When I go home, I shower. I'm not around my family until I have that shower and my clothes go into the washer.

"I haven't isolated myself from my husband and son. But my parents are elderly, and I haven't seen them directly in weeks. I've seen them through a window or in the community. But actually sitting down with them for a meal, hugging my dad, I have not done because I need to protect them. It's extremely difficult, but it's something I need to do to protect them."

Many people, aware of the risks to health-care workers, are calling them and first responders heroes during the crisis.

I asked whether she felt like a hero.

"No, not at all," she said. "I'm just doing my job."

I asked whether she had any advice for Quay County residents.

"Continue the social distancing, wash their hands," she said. "Those are the big things. If they're sick, stay home and quarantine themselves for that 14 days, get tested. Just be smart. Follow those directives; they're in place for a reason."

I'll keep those directives in mind for my sake and others - especially for Macias-Ray's parents.

Ron Warnick is the senior writer for the Quay County Sun. Contact him at:

[email protected]

 
 

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