The Associated Press
Created: May 14, 2020 08:55 AM
SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico is woefully short of professionals devoted to contact tracing that can alert people who are exposed unknowingly to the coronavirus, said Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham. She said the state needs a minimum of 670 people to effectively trace contacts from infections through telephone debriefings.
“We’re at about 100-110 people and it’s not enough,” said Lujan Grisham said.
The comments came nearly a month after the state embarked on a related pilot program with the federal government and at least two other states. Little has been said publicly about the program since then.
For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death. The vast majority of people recover.
The Democratic governor said the state is contracting with a company named Accenture to improve its capabilities for tracing possible exposure to COVID-19 as the state prepares to lighten restrictions on many nonessential businesses.
Tight restrictions will remain in place in the northwest where the virus is taking a heavy toll across the Navajo Nation and adjoining communities such as Gallup.
Manual contact tracing is described as a labor-intensive process.
“These are individuals who call individuals who are positive and then begin to get the history of their families,” Lujan Grisham said. “They’ve been trying to figure out their source of getting the virus and then making sure they get to everybody else. It is incredibly time-intensive.”
The state has confirmed 231 deaths and more than 5,300 infections statewide, while health officials estimate that current infections are likely much higher because many people have not been tested.
The state continues to ramp up testing, with total tests now exceeding 115,000 in a state of 2.1 million residents.
Testing was offered this week to the state’s entire public and private workforce for any reason, and officials are encouraging multiple tests for people who fear exposure or sense symptoms.
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