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McKinley County now leads New Mexico in COVID-19 cases

April 26, 2020 GMT

GALLUP, N.M. (AP) — Health officials on Saturday reported 69 additional COVID-19 cases in McKinley County, making it the New Mexico county with the most reported cases.

The total of 708 cases reported in McKinley County in western New Mexico as of Saturday now surpasses the 670 reported in Bernalillo County, which includes Albuquerque, New Mexico’s most populous city.

McKinley County includes a corner of the main part of the Navajo Nation, which has been hit hard by the pandemic. Tribal officials reported Friday the reservation had 1,504 cases with 58 deaths. The reservation includes parts of Arizona, New Mexico and Utah.

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McKinley County is bisected by Interstate 40. Gallup, the county seat, is a regional shopping destination, including for many reservation residents.

The New Mexico Department of Health updated its statewide figures, reporting nine additional deaths related to COVID-19 and 139 additional cases of the disease as of Saturday, for a total of 93 deaths and 2,660 cases.

The additional deaths included six in San Juan County, two in Sandoval County and one in Catron County. Of the six additional deaths in San Juan County, five involved residents of Life Care Center in Farmington, and three of those had underlying conditions, the department said in a statement,

Apart from McKinley County’s 69 additional cases, counties that accounted for most of the additional cases included Bernalillo with 19 , Dona Ana with 16. and San Juan with 15.

At least one additional case was reported in each of Cibola, Curry, Guadalupe, Roosevelt, Sandoval, Santa Fe, Socorro and Union counties.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.

In another development related to McKinley County, an alcohol detox center in Gallup that was closed earlier this month because of a lack of staff to operate the facility has reopened to house intoxicated people who have tested positive for COVID-19 or have recovered from the disease.

NCI Detox reopened last weekend after being closed the previous week because of some employees going into quarantine due to exposure to the virus and others refusing to work because of fear of being exposed to the virus, the Gallup Independent reported Saturday.

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That was after a client tested positive. Since then, several clients tested positive for COVID-19.

Since reopening, the detox center has been admitting intoxicated individuals only if they are positive for COVID-19 or have recovered,.Executive Director Kevin Foley said.

Gallup City Manager Maryann Ustick said Friday that the New Mexico Department of Health was negotiating with NCI to figure out how to process individuals from a detox hold into a quarantine hold when they become sober.

The detox center was able to reopen with help from the state Department of Health, the New Mexico National Guard and the Gallup Police Department, Foley said.

The National Guard provided 17 service members to perform duties that include answering phones, cleaning and helping conduct blood-alcohol tests, but they are not allowed to touch clients, Foley said.

Two police officers, two or three NCI staff members and a certificated nurse assistant work each shift, Foley said.

National Guard and police personnel were trained by doctors from Gallup Indian Medical Center on how to properly wear and remove personal protective equipment to avoid contamination.

Foley commended Police Chief Franklin Boyd because Boyd “”was the first one suited up in protective personal equipment and he took the lead. A lot of his staff were afraid also.”