State public health orders are changing starting next week to allow in-person visits to residents of nursing homes and other skilled care facilities in 20 New Mexico counties, but Chaves County is not among those at the current time, state officials said in a Thursday video press conference.
New COVID-19 numbers statewide and by counties were also given, with two additional deaths announced — a woman in her 50s from Bernalillo County and a man in his 40s from San Juan County.
Care facility visits
Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham announced during the Thursday conference live-streamed on social media that, although New Mexico is “not out of the woods yet” in terms of COVID-19 spread, its has seen a decline this week in daily case counts to the two hundreds instead of the three hundreds.
That allows state officials to relax the rules regarding in-person visits at care facilities.
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“We want to think about ways to engage as safely as we can to put our loved ones and our family members in a situation where they can do more than window visits and FaceTime video visits,” she said.
She said the state will be releasing detailed plans about how people in some counties will be allowed to arrange appointments to visit residents of care facilities in outdoor settings, through open windows or when plexiglass separates the residents from their family members.
Social distancing, health screenings, the wearing of face coverings and other infection-prevention methods still will be required. At this time, facilities are expected to allow one visit per family per month. Visits will not be allowed at facilities that have an active COVID-19 case.
Personal visits also can continue for residents receiving end-of-life care, palliative care or hospice care. Video and audio visits using smart phones or tablets are still allowed for all residents and families throughout the state.
Lujan Grisham and Secretary of Aging and Long-Term Services Katrina Hotrum-Lopez said that visits will be allowed in counties that have a positivity rate lower than 5%, or fewer than 10 cases per 100,000 residents. Counties now qualifying are Bernalillo, Colfax, De Baca, Grant, Guadalupe, Harding, Hidalgo, Los Alamos, McKinney, Otero, Quay, Sandoval, Santa Fe, San Juan, San Miguel, Sierra, Socorro, Taos, Torrance and Valencia.
Visitations will be extended to the other 13 counties when their rates improve and based on how this gradual process works, state officials said.
“As Secretary (David) Scrase has said, this is a very, very critical population, very high, very vulnerable population,” said Hotrum-Lopez. “So making sure that we are opening slowly and that we don’t have an invitation for all facilities to make sure that we are doing this right is really important.”
Chaves County’s positivity rate was not given at the press conference, but the charts shown during the conference indicate the rate was based on a seven-day rolling average of cases as of Aug. 6.
Chaves County does have two facilities that have reported COVID-19 cases among staff and residents during the past 28 days, Mission Arch Center and Sunset Villa Care Center, both in Roswell.
Hotrum-Lopez and Lujan Grisham said that they think many care facility residents need to have people visit with them to reduce stress, anxiety, depression or other conditions that can be caused by feeling isolated. There are now 9,959 people in long-term care facilities, according to the state.
State COVID-19 count up 212, county up by 16
Chaves County had 16 new COVID-19 cases reported Thursday.
The county’s total data now is as follows: 411 total cases, with 94 considered recovered. There have been 11,106 tests administered. Chaves County also has had six deaths since March.
Statewide, the 212 new cases bring the total COVID-19 cases to 21,773. Those who have recovered now total 8,950. Deaths have reached 669. The two deaths reported Thursday were of people who were hospitalized and were said to have underlying conditions. There have been 604,382 tests given statewide. There have been 2,803 hospitalizations during the pandemic, including 138 people now hospitalized.
The high-population counties of Bernalillo and Dona Ana had the largest new daily cases Thursday at 42 and 36. Other counties with double-digit increases besides Chaves County were Lea County, with 23, and Curry, San Juan and Valencia counties with 10 each.
“We are seeing good trends,” said Scrase, secretary of the Human Services Department. “Case counts coming down consistently. We were in the area of three hundreds last week and now we are in the low two hundreds.”
He said testing is “amazing,” and contact tracing is also improving. The statewide coronavirus spread rate of 0.72 is good, he said. The spread rate is the number of cases generated by one infected person.
State officials also urged childhood vaccinations in preparation for return to school, warned against delays in getting other medical care, and encouraged New Mexicans to answer and respond to calls from contact tracers.
Scrase said information will remain confidential. While they will ask for birth dates, they do not require credit card numbers, Social Security numbers or immigration status. He said people should not provide information to callers who ask for such information.
Scrase also said that the state is within a “stone’s throw” of being able to allow schools to reopen, but that will require people to continue to practice hand-washing, use face coverings and allow at least six feet of social distance between themselves and others.
He also said big family gatherings and group events are not to occur at this time.
“I would just beg people, based on what we saw after Fourth of July in New Mexico, to start planning now for a nice, stay-at-home Labor Day weekend with the people you live with,” he said. “Just do that cookout with the family you live with. Don’t get the family together. There will be time to do that when we are all vaccinated and we have the virus fully under control.”
To keep up with local coverage of the coronavirus, go to rdrnews.com/category/news/covid-19-situation/.
Senior Writer Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 351, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.