New Mexico faces hurdles for widespread COVID-19 testing

Coronavirus New Mexico

NEW MEXICO (KRQE) – More people are asking when the country might reopen. One of the biggest factors may be widespread testing for COVID-19, so what will it take for New Mexico to get there?

Governors across the country are fighting to ramp up testing in their states, with hopes it’ll provide a piece of the puzzle for a safe reopen plan.

“Until we can test everyone, it’s not good enough because you can’t see the prevalence, you don’t have good surveillance, and you can see that it’s a national challenge,” said Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham during an April 15 news conference.

Gov. Lujan Grisham and the state Department of Health are tracking tests and results daily from 60 sites across all 33 counties in New Mexico. Just this past weekend, Lovelace Medical Center hosted a drive-thru screening for anyone to get a COVID-19 test, even if they’re not showing symptoms.

According to Lovelace spokeswoman Whitney Marquez, 1,154 tests were administered at the drive-thru site on Saturday and Sunday. Health officials say knowing who could be carrying and spreading the virus without symptoms is key for governments to come up with a plan to safely reopen.

Harvard researchers warn if the country wants to reopen, testing would have to go up around 500,000 people per day. Nationwide testing is now about 150,000 per day.

So far in New Mexico, most testing criteria include people who are symptomatic or those asymptomatic people in congregate settings like nursing homes and homeless shelters.

The governor’s office says it has the capacity to process up to 3,500 tests per day but there’s no guarantee New Mexico will have that many tests each day to administer.

“We’re grateful to all of our public and private partners, and we will continue to test as broadly as possible to limit the spread,” said Department of Health Secretary Kathy Kunkel during the same April 15 news conference.

“We thank you all for continuing to help us by limiting your face-to-face interactions.”

The governor’s office said it is constantly making calls to pharmaceutical companies, the federal government and distributors to help with the state’s supplies as we go.

Doctor Anthony Fauci, Director for the National Institute of Allergy & Infections Diseases or NIAID, emphasized at a recent White House press briefing that testing is only part of the puzzle to devise a safe reopen plan.

“Testing is a part, an important part of a multifaceted way that we are going to control and ultimately end this outbreak,” said Dr. Fauci.

“The emphasis that we’ve been hearing is essentially testing is everything and it isn’t, it’s the kinds of things that we’ve been doing, the mitigation strategies that are an important part of that,” Fauci added.

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s office says aside from making sure New Mexico has enough tests, another hurdle with widespread testing will be encouraging those asymptomatic people to wait in line and actually get tested.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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