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Virus prevention efforts focused on communication


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Communication is key in local efforts to prepare for any signs of COVID-19 in Chaves County, according to Karen Sanders, Roswell/Chaves County emergency manager.

That communication extends to local medical facilities, emergency responders and the public, Sanders said.

“We need everybody’s help. Everybody plays a role in helping prepare should we have cases in New Mexico,” she said.

Preparing for the possibility begins with working with those who will likely be the first to have any contact with potential cases, Sanders said.

“We’ve been in communication from the beginning with our local health care facilities and providers to make sure that they’re up-to-date on infection control recommendations that we have in place just in general, whether it be to any type of influenza or to this specific strain of COVID-19,” she said.

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“We have also implemented some screening procedures at our 911 dispatch center for our dispatchers to screen calls as they come in for people that might call in sick, or particularly with breathing difficulties,” she said.

Symptoms of COVID-19, the disease caused by the new strain of coronavirus, include fever, cough and shortness of breath.

The New Mexico Department of Health conducts daily calls with local officials on preparation, she said, and part of those talks include how to handle a large influx of patients.

The state, as well as the federal Centers for Disease Control, recommends that anyone who suspects they might have COVID-19 call a healthcare provider rather than just go to their physician or an emergency room.

The New Mexico Department of Health has a phone number to report public health concerns, including coronavirus. It is 505-827-0006.

Anyone showing symptoms, and who has either traveled to any of the countries with a level 3 travel warning — China, South Korea, Italy and Iran — or had contact with someone with the disease, should call the health department number, Sanders said.

“That will walk them through the steps of how they will facilitate care for that person from that point forward so that sick person isn’t coming into a healthcare facility without them knowing,” Sanders said.

According to the New Mexico Department of Health Coronavirus Disease website, 57 people had been tested as of Sunday, with no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the state. Sanders said she was not aware if any of those tested were from Chaves County.

Although Sanders said she has not received many calls from the public about coronavirus concerns, she was not surprised to hear that local retailers, including Walmart and Walgreen’s, had empty or nearly empty shelves where hand sanitizers and soap are normally found.

“I’m sure that the stores are selling out of frequently used products like Kleenex or hand sanitizer or any kind of soap,” she said.

Frequent hand washing with soap for at least 20 seconds or use of sanitizer is among the tips the Roswell/Chaves County Office of Emergency Management posted to its Facebook page on Feb. 27.

“The number one thing people can do is prevent getting sick,” Sanders said.

Keeping a distance of least six feet from other people can help prevent the spread of the virus, according to the Centers for Disease Control guidelines, she noted.

“Don’t go to work if you’re sick. That one seems to be a tough one because everybody has work to do,” Sanders said.

Among the other actions people can take to prevent the spread of the coronavirus and other respiratory illnesses are:

• Avoid touching the eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands

• Avoid close contact with people who are sick, especially if they have traveled to an area of an outbreak

• Cover a cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash

• Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using household cleaner

More information on COVID-19 can be found at cv.nmhealth.org or cdc.gov/coronavirus.

City/RISD reporter Juno Ogle can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 205, or reporter04@rdrnews.com.

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