Harvard study: Safe reopen plan should include more COVID-19 testing

Coronavirus New Mexico

NEW MEXICO (KRQE) – This week, we will learn if the governor will lift more restrictions or extend her public health emergency order. What will it take to reopen safely? Health officials are monitoring models and testing benchmarks to help states decide. 

Researchers at the Harvard Global Institute are tracking testing in each U.S. state and according to their study, most states, including New Mexico, aren’t doing enough testing to safely reopen. Not a news conference goes by without the governor and others on her team emphasizing the importance of testing.

“We want to be really clear that we are assertively and aggressively expanding testing and surveillance in the state,” Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said during a May 5 press conference.

While our state has the capacity to do 5,000 tests per day, Department of Health Secretary Kathy Klunkel said it is a benchmark we have not hit yet.

“We need the efforts of both the state and our private and public partners to reach that capacity,” Kunkel said. “As you know we’ve been focusing on longterm care centers, on congregate sites, essential workers, grocery stores, childcare workers, but everyone can get tested.”

According to the COVID Tracking Project, New Mexico is doing closer to 3,000 to 4,000 tests per day. Higher numbers are reported on the weekends when places like Lovelace offer drive-through clinic testing to the general public.

“We have performed over 83,000 tests to date,” Kunkel said.

In order to safely start reopening, the Harvard Global Institute said New Mexico should be doing more than 5,000 tests per day by May 15.

Projected testing needed, courtesy NPR and Harvard Global Institute

The state health department said its expanded testing in all 33 New Mexico counties and is constantly working to increase and improve the process. Kunkel said they also need the public’s help.

“If you’re a business or a municipality and you want to be tested, call the public health office and asked to be placed on our calendar,” Sec. Kunkel said. “We do have a calendar of testing so we plan ahead but we will work you in, particularly based on the urgency of your need.”

Reaching 5,000 tests per day is part of the governor’s statewide criteria for reopening, emphasizing that all criteria is driven by social distancing behaviors of New Mexicans. During her latest press conference, Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham said she’d rely on the data to decide whether to move to phase one on the reopen plan for May 15.

To date, more than 100,000 New Mexicans have been tested for COVID-19.

New Mexico Coronavirus Resources

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