New Mexico bolsters supplies for coronavirus testing

March 4, 2020 GMT

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico health authorities said supplies have arrived to allow rapid testing for coronavirus infection as Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham expressed confidence in the state’s preparedness and public education efforts designed to minimize transmission of the virus.

The state Department of Health said it is equipped to test several hundred patients for coronavirus without having to send samples out of state for analysis, using kits provided by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Flanked by top state health officials at a signing ceremony for health-related legislation, Lujan Grisham did not provide specific responses to questions about the number of available hospital beds and respirators, or possible contingency planning at schools if classrooms were to shut down.

“Like all states, we have to have an inventory, we have to have a plan about where people go, we have to work with every hospital about making sure we have sufficient beds,” said Lujan Grisham, who participated in a conference call Monday with Vice President Mike Pence, who is coordinating the federal government’s response. “We are working diligently with the feds to makes sure that if we need more, we have access to more.”

The state has launched a website dedicated to COVID-19, with tips on how to best avoid transmission and what to do if infection is suspected.

Symptoms of COVID-19 can include fever, cough and breathing trouble. Most develop only mild symptoms. But some people, usually those with other medical complications, develop more severe symptoms, including pneumonia, which can be fatal.

The website says that the state is “actively monitoring the hospital bed capacity in New Mexico and the availability of facemasks. ... We are working with healthcare facilities to be prepared if there are shortages and to implement alternative sites for healthcare if needed, and to increase the supply of personal protective equipment.”

The Democratic-controlled U.S. House passed an $8.3 billion measure Wednesday to battle the coronavirus outbreak that’s spreading rapidly and threatening a major shock to the economy and disruptions to everyday life in the U.S. Much of the funding is directed at state and local government efforts.

The governor said two people have been tested for COVID-19 with one negative result and the other result still undetermined.

Testing is being applied selectively — starting with people who display signs of the illness, already test negative for more common respiratory illnesses and have traveled to a countries including China, South Korea, Italy and Iran.