Coronavirus: How are state health officials preparing? How is it affecting the economy? | KOB 4

Coronavirus: How are state health officials preparing? How is it affecting the economy?

Brittany Costello, Megan Abundis, Joy Wang
Updated: March 04, 2020 02:53 PM
Created: February 25, 2020 10:23 PM

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M.— Officials from the Center of Disease Control and Prevention announced Tuesday that they are expecting to see community spread of the coronavirus in the United States.

“It’s not so much a question of  if this will happen anymore, but rather more a question of exactly when this will happen and how many people in this country will have severe illness,” said Nancy Messonnier, director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases.


The coronavirus, which is a form of the common cold, has been found in more than 30 countries including the United States and has resulted in thousands of deaths.

How doctors and state officials are preparing

There have been no confirmed cases of the coronavirus in New Mexico, but top doctors from UNM Hospital and the state health department said they’re still working on a plan.

"To put things in perspective, yes this is coronavirus. It's actually the virus of the common cold. People have been here in our government and as well as we have in UNM Health Sciences Center have been on top of this since day one,” said Dr. Cristina Beato with UNMH.

Dr. Beato said no Americans have died from coronavirus and that people are still more likely to die from flu illness.

“Actually more concerning has been the deaths that have happened from the flu this year. I'll give you a very starking example. There have been 105 children in some cased 109—we don't have the results back on the other four—that have died in the 2019-2020 flu season in the United States, American children from the flu. We've lost no children from coronavirus. We've lost 16,000 adults from the flu. No American has died from coronavirus,” Dr. Beato said.

The New Mexico Department of Health said they track New Mexico residents who have specifically traveled from China. The CDC notifies state health department officials when they return to the U.S. then monitors them for 14 days—all by phone.

Those international travelers are asked about their lungs and temperature and are not allowed to return to work during the two week period.

The state health department said they have tracked a little over 30 people who have returned from China. Right now they are tracking only 10 people. None of those travelers have shown any symptoms of Coronavirus so far.

Hospital officials said they have plans in place if they receive an influx of patients as well as alternative sites to care for them. The state is also monitoring bed capacity and the availability of face masks and respirators.

How the Sunport is preparing

Officials from the Sunport said they are already taking proactive steps to stop the virus. Commercial international flights are currently not allowed to land at the Sunport.

A Sunport spokesperson said they are already encouraging passengers to take the necessary precautions, as they should have been doing for the flu season already.

A crisis communication plan is also in place if anything changes.

“Any flights coming from that region are being routed to specific airports in the country that are approved for screening, so you know it’s not really likely that there’d be any flight coming in directly to Albuquerque that wouldn’t have already been screened,” said Sunport spokesman Jonathan Small.

How schools are preparing

The University of New Mexico said they have a plan in place in case the virus breaks out. Officials are also advising students who are enrolled in overseas education programs to make sure those trips haven’t been cancelled or postponed due to the virus.

“We’ve definitely talked to all the big players across campus. We’ve gone back over our plans. Our general emergency preparedness plans how we’re going to communicate these type of issues, what type of actions we might need to take so everyone is still on the same page and we’re actively talking across the campus community about this,” said UNM Emergency Manager Byron Piatt.

A spokesperson from Albuquerque Public Schools said the district is taking their direction from the state health department. They are also expecting the health department to send more information to schools in the next few days.

The CDC is already outlining what closing schools and businesses would look like in a pandemic. That would mean dividing students into smaller groups or even closing down and using teleschooling.

The economic impact of coronavirus

For the second day in a row the stock exchange bell rang in bad news. The DOW had dropped by 6% this week.

Many U.S. companies depend on products and materials that come from China, which is reeling from the impact of the coronavirus.

One area where most people could see the economic impact is in their 401K. That retirement money is invested into the stock market, so people can see the change when the market rises and falls.

Vice president of Oxford Wealth Advisors Gage Kemsley said the coronavirus is impacting the market because China is one of the biggest consuming markets.

"So when companies like Nike say 'You know what, we're going to start focusing 30% of our business in China and all of a sudden the Chinese are saying 'I'm not going to go out because of this coronavirus,' their sales just fall through the floor," said Kemsley. "When they don't hit those earnings, those stock prices start to fall."

But that fluctuation isn't anything new, and is to be expected. Kemsley said it's all about risk management, and knowing what you're investing in.  If you're starting to panic right now, he says you may be taking more risk than you should.

That being said, the firm is getting numerous calls right now about what to do for those nearing retirement or retired. He said the biggest key is to diversify, and ride this wave out.

"I don't think people should take drastic approach, drastic measures to what they're currently doing simply because you kind of want to stay the course on these things," he said.

CNBC reports the S&P 500 lost an estimated $1.7-trillion in value in just the last two days. Right now, the markets in Asia are trending downward—signaling what could be another rough day on Wall Street.

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