Weekend sees spike in COVID-19


May 20, 2020

The weekend was a dark one for eastern New Mexico in its battle against the COVID-19 pandemic.

On Saturday, the region set a one-day record for new cases and two local nursing homes reported confirmed cases.

But officials said there is little reason to suspect eastern New Mexico is becoming a hot spot for the virus.

“No ... the data isn’t supporting that,” Roosevelt County Manager Amber Hamilton said. “Our community is doing a great job of combating this.”

Roosevelt County had 12 new cases reported Saturday, increasing its total from 14 to 26. A 27th case was reported Monday. Curry County had four new cases reported Saturday — and one more on Sunday, increasing its total to 41 — double the number it had May 5.

Also Saturday, Retirement Ranch in Clovis and Heartland Continuing Care Center in Portales joined the growing list of New Mexico senior centers reporting cases of coronavirus.

All four individuals who tested positive were asymptomatic, officials said, but both facilities began new rounds of tests for residents and staff as precautions.

Roosevelt General Hospital Administrator Kaye Green reported on the RGH Facebook page that nine of the most recent Roosevelt County cases came through the hospital, but none are currently hospitalized. Green said she believes seven of the new cases were tested because individuals believed they had been exposed by one other person who had tested positive.

“This person may have spread the virus to family members, co-workers and community members before self-quarantine began,” RGH public relations director Jeanette Orrantia wrote in an email on Tuesday.

“This is why it’s very important to self isolate if you have been exposed or considered positive for the virus.”

Officials said they do not know the source of all the new cases, but they may not be cause for concern.

“I would like to think the numbers are a result of the significant increase in available testing,” said Dan Heerding, the emergency management coordinator for the city of Clovis.

“DOH (New Mexico Department of Health) won’t tell us where the cases are from other than a ZIP code. They cite HIPPA (privacy) laws as the reason.”

Neither Curry nor Roosevelt counties has reported a COVID-19 related death and, even with Saturday’s spike, both are still below the state average in the number of cases per-100,000 population.

The number of tests the state has performed has increased dramatically in recent weeks — from 71,118 on May 1 to 137,620 through Monday.

The number of recovered cases in the state has also increased of late — from 785 on May 1 to 1,796 through Monday.

Before the 16 cases reported in Curry-Roosevelt counties on Saturday, the single-day high was five on April 30.

More good news: The lone COVID-19 patient admitted to Clovis’ Plains Regional Medical Center since the pandemic began was discharged on Saturday, hospital spokeswoman Amanda Schoenberg said.

If the weekend becomes the norm, area hospital officials have said they are ready.

“Since the onset of the pandemic, RGH has been preparing for a possible outbreak,” Orrantia said. “At this time, we have an appropriate supply of masks, beds and ventilators but depending on the scope of the outbreak it could change rapidly. Staff meet daily to discuss where we are, and future plans and needs. During this time, we have learned to adapt to the changes as they occur.”

One change has been the availability of testing, which some area businesses are embracing.

Farmers Country Market in Portales was closed part of the weekend to provide testing for its staff.

“It was routine testing at Farmers on Sunday,” Hamilton said. “It’s employers doing what they feel is in the best interest of their employees. We’re seeing more of the employers seeking out testing throughout the county.”


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