TUES: UNM Scientists Sterilizing Protective Gear For Reuse As COVID-19 Cases Exceed 2,000, + More

Apr 21, 2020

University Of New Mexico Scientists Reusing Protective GearKOAT-TV, Associated Press

Scientists and clinical staff at the University of New Mexico have started to sterilize and reuse single-use personal protective equipment.

The effort joins other universities and hospitals around the country in a bid to salvage dwindling supplies amid the coronavirus pandemic. KOAT-TV reported that medical facilities across the country are looking for alternatives, while others are using a sterilization technique to help with decreasing supplies.

Officials say the sterilization process can take up to four hours, but 1,000 masks can be sterilized at a time. N95 masks and protective eyewear can be repurposed up to 20 times.

New Testing Site Expands Capacity In AlbuquerqueAlbuquerque Journal

A new site in Albuquerque is expanding testing capacity for COVID-19 in the state’s largest city.

The Albuquerque Journal reports the site is open to people regardless of symptoms. The location at Academy and Wyoming is a partnership between Walmart and Quest Diagnostics and is focused on health care providers and first responders. People must set up an appointment at Quest’s website.

Lovelace Medical Center had expanded testing over the weekend to anyone, regardless of whether they had symptoms, but a spokesperson said that has been temporarily discontinued.

State officials announced Tuesday 103 additional people tested positive for COVID-19 bringing the total number of cases to 2,072. There were seven additional deaths, bringing that total to 65.

That included four deaths of residents from La Vida Llena retirement facility and one from Central Desert Behavioral Health facility, both in Albuquerque. They are among nine congregate living facilities in New Mexico where the Department of Health has identified positive COVID-19 cases in residents and/or staff.

The Albuquerque Journal reported at least 16 residents from La Vida Llena have died from COVID-19. Bernalillo County has the highest number of cases in the state at 585, followed by McKinley County in northwest New Mexico where the Navajo Nation has seen a surge in cases.

This story reflects an update that testing for anyone regardless of symptoms at Lovelace Medical Center has been discontinued.

New Mexico PPE Aid On The Rise As Coronavirus Cases Near 2,000 Associated Press

New Mexico health officials are reporting three new deaths and 126 new infections from the coronavirus. 

The Monday update raises the statewide toll from the virus to 58 deaths and 1,971 confirmed cases. 

Philanthropic efforts to aid Native American communities are ramping up and the state is making hundreds of new deliveries of personal protective equipment. 

New Mexico officials announced new deliveries of personal protective equipment such as face masks and gowns to retirement homes and state, local and tribal entities. The governor's office says the state has spent $10.4 million on protective equipment designed to limit the transmission of COVID-19 since the disease arrived.

Shipments in recent days went out to Pojoaque, Zuni and Santa Clara pueblos as well as retirement homes in Bernalillo, Sandoval and Socorro counties.

New Mexico OKs 19K New Jobless Claims, Count Now Up To 74K By Morgan Lee Associated Press

New Mexico’s top workforce official says 19,000 unemployment applications were processed over the weekend as the state starts distributing the $600 federally subsidized boost to weekly benefits. 

Workforce Solutions Secretary Bill McCamley says that 74,000 people have been approved for unemployment benefits since the economic fallout from the coronavirus hit hard last month.

That figure does not include claims filed by residents who file taxes as self-employed or as gig economy workers because officials have not yet started processing those claims. State officials have estimated that there are about 62,000 workers in New Mexico who fit into those work categories.

The maximum weekly unemployment payout in New Mexico is $461, but the federal boost increases that to $1,061 weekly.

Governor Says More Testing Needed To Open Economy – Associated Press

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham says an economic recovery plan is under development, but it is unclear whether the plan will incorporate the White House's phased approach to reopening the economy.

Lujan Grisham took part in a call Monday between U.S. governors and Vice President Mike Pence regarding efforts to expand coronavirus testing capacity. 

Lujan Grisham spokesman Tripp Stelnicki said she did not get a chance to ask Pence for more information about the future of antibody testing, which New Mexico has not yet implemented.

New Mexico relies on coronavirus tests that use nose or throat swabs, though its health officials are eager to explore the potential benefits of antibody tests that look in the blood for evidence someone had the virus and recovered.

Lujan Grisham said last week that social distancing measures cannot be relaxed without broader testing, expanded contact tracing to try and pinpoint and isolate sources of infection, and new treatment or therapy options. 

Public health officials have said it could take a year to 18 months to fully validate potential vaccines.

ACLU Files Suit Against ICE For Release Of At-Risk Otero Detainees - Associated Press

The American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of New Mexico filed a lawsuit Monday against U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement on behalf of immigrants detained in Otero County Processing Center in the community of Chaparral. 

The ACLU is seeking the release of three detainees who the group says are at high risk for serious illness or death in the event of a COVID-19 infection. 

ICE spokesperson Leticia Zamarripa says the agency does not comment on pending litigation. 


Albuquerque Schools Names COO As Interim Superintendent - Associated Press

The board of the largest school district in New Mexico has named its chief operations officer as interim superintendent. 

The Albuquerque Public Schools Board of Education announced late Monday that Scott Elder will take over superintendent duties when Raquel Reedy retires in the coming months. 

Reedy announced in October that she planned to retire after more than four decades in public education. 

The district was in the middle of a search for her replacement when the coronavirus public health crisis closed schools for the remainder of the school year. The search has been suspended until school returns as normal.

Records: Super PAC Raises $75k To Attack GOP House Hopeful  By Russell Contreras Associated Press

Federal records show a Super PAC raised $75,000 to attack a Republican U.S. House candidate in New Mexico.   

Citizens for a United New Mexico reported raising the money during the first three months of 2020 before it launched a recent advertising blitz against former state lawmaker Yvette Herrell. 

The ads alleged that Herrell sent emails in 2016 "to undermine Trump's campaign for president" and attended an "anti-Trump soiree." 

Records show the Super PAC is registered to a northwestern New Mexico oil trucking company owner. 

It also lists Carlsbad rancher George Brantley as one of the Super PAC's major donors. He is married to Nancy Brantley, the campaign chair of House candidate Claire Chase, who is Herrell's opponent in the GOP primary.

Virus Forecast Model From Us Defense Team Draws Attention - By Morgan Lee Associated Press

A team of national defense scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory with an award-winning track record for modeling human contagions has developed its own forecast for the spread of the coronavirus. 

It's one model that states are utilizing as they consider the duration of directives on social distancing and restrictions on business. 

The Los Alamos model builds upon a decade of past experience in forecasting contagions from the seasonal flu to the Ebola virus. 

The lab's new COVID-19 model shows the likelihood that any U.S. state has hit its daily infections peak and may be on a downward path.

New Mexico Man Sentenced In Booster Club Embezzlement - Alamogordo Daily News, Associated Press

A New Mexico man has been sentenced to nearly a year in prison after he pleaded no contest in the theft of thousands of dollars for a high school football booster club. 

The Alamogordo Daily News reports Albert "Vincent" Flores Jr. was sentenced last week and ordered to pay oer $10,000 in restitution to the Alamogordo Tiger Touchdown Club. 

Prosecutors say the 45-year-old Flores used the organization's debit card and checkbook for Netflix, Redbox, Hulu, Peace Out, Nations Photo Lab, Black River Imaging, Walmart and various restaurants. 

Flores pleaded no contest to embezzlement over $2,500 without a plea agreement two days before his case was set to go to trial in September.