Healthcare workers in Four Corners area preparing for surge of COVID-19 cases

Coronavirus New Mexico

FARMINGTON, N.M. (KRQE) – Healthcare workers in one part of New Mexico are bracing for the worst. They’re expected to see a surge of coronavirus cases before the rest of the state reaches its peak.

New Mexico’s ‘front line’ is busy preparing for the battle of COVID-19 and in the Four Corners, they’re expecting the worst of it. State health officials say San Juan County has at least two or more cases of community spread where they can’t trace where the virus came from. They say community spread has the potential for a surge.

“We do think that it has the potential to hit our community very hard,” said Melissa Rietz, a family nurse practitioner at Pinon Family Practice in Farmington. “We’re an isolated community so the resources that we have, that’s what we have.”

Rietz works at a private family practice that serves the Four Corners community. She says while they’ve prepped for weeks, they will need supplies soon.

“Right now, we have what we need right now,” said Rietz. “It is a day-by-day, what does today look like, what does tomorrow look like.”

State studies show northwest New Mexico could see its coronavirus peak weeks before the rest of the state. Rietz says local healthcare providers are doing all they can to be prepared, and if things are not as bad as anticipated — great. But if not — they want to be as ready as possible.

“In the healthcare industry, the more prepared that we are, the better,” said Rietz. “If it is as bad as anticipated and we are prepared, then we can better care for our citizens.”

Rietz says many providers in the Four Corners are turning to telemedicine, allowing you to talk on the phone or video chat with a medical professional for anything from high blood pressure to mental health, avoiding a trip to the office. For those who do need to come in, they’ve rented a shed to see all COVID-19 patients and those with symptoms, keeping the practice as safe and risk-free as they can.

“We’ve been offering services to patients who have any of the potential COVID symptoms, runny nose, cough, fever, any type of congestions, so even those patients who may just have allergic symptoms, we have been seeing them in our back parking lot for approximately the last three weeks,” said Rietz. “We have shut down our clinic to anyone who has any potential symptoms in order to keep not only our patients safe, but our staff safe, our providers safe, to make sure that we can continue to provide care.”

Rietz says people needing care for their chronic illnesses need to continue to see their doctors. However, everyone else is encouraged to stay home and not overwhelm the area’s healthcare facilities.

As of Tuesday morning, the state says there are 83 cases of COVID-19 in San Juan County. So far, there are no deaths related to the virus there.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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