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New Mexico residents endure long wait for virus results

December 1, 2020 GMT

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico residents have encountered longer lines for COVID-19 testing and must wait several days or weeks for test results as confirmed coronavirus cases surge throughout the state, health officials said.

Another 2,330 confirmed cases were reported Tuesday, bringing the statewide total to more than 99,400 since the pandemic began. Another 21 deaths also were reported, bringing that tally to nearly 1,590. Hospitalizations remain high, with more than 900 people being treated.

The waits are happening because more daily cases mean more testing, putting strain on laboratories and increasing result delays, Health Department spokeswoman Marisa Maez said Monday.

Maria Higuera went for a COVID-19 test at a state health office in Santa Fe on Nov. 18 and was still waiting for her results on Monday. Higuera told The Santa Fe New Mexican that she and her family were tested in preparation for a visit with her son in Utah.

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“If I knew it would have taken 12 days, I wouldn’t have done it,” she said, adding she had been tested three times before and never waited more than several days for results.

The Health Department says the state’s seven-day average daily testing number is 12,651 — compared to less than 5,000 tests daily over the summer.

There is a “tremendous influx of tests pouring into the state lab; roughly 3,000 per day,” Maez said. “Meantime, other contracted labs both in and outside of New Mexico are equally as overwhelmed.”

There is also a slower process of informing people about results because most are opting out of text message alerts and that forces health workers to make calls directly, she said. Many people don’t answer because they are called from numbers they don’t know.

The number of infections is thought to be far higher because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected with the virus without feeling sick.

New Mexico is preparing to ease some public health restrictions Wednesday, and officials in some cities are opting to reopen senior centers, libraries and other facilities at reduced capacities. Rio Rancho, Roswell and Farmington are among them.

Rio Rancho officials said Tuesday that citizens entering any city facility will be required to wear a face covering and maintain distance between themselves and others. They also said it’s still imperative that people continue to stay home as much as possible.

In Roswell, the City Council passed a resolution Monday night allowing the city manager to keep city venues or facilities open, regardless of the state public health order. The Roswell Daily Record reported that Councilor Jacob Roebuck proposed the resolution, saying his concern was for the mental, social, academic and financial health of the people, especially youth.

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Those who testified before the City Council talked about rising levels of depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts, violence, sexual assaults, substance abuse and academic failures that they have witnessed in recent months. Roswell High School football coach Jeff Lynn said gun violence has increased and the New Mexico Activities Association has reported that eight student-athletes in the state have committed suicide.

Roebuck said he realized that the city can’t affect businesses or schools, so the resolution was “far from a perfect” solution. But he said keeping city venues and facilities open would at least provide some opportunities for youth and the elderly to be active and social.