March 15, 2020

NM officials bring on additional infectious disease specialist to help with COVID-19

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and the New Mexico Department of Health have tapped an expert familiar with New Mexico’s public health system as well as infectious diseases to help with the state’s response to COVID-19, a type of coronavirus.

The move comes as the number of presumptive positive test results for COVID-19 in New Mexico continues to increase. Nora Meyers Sackett, a spokeswoman for Lujan Grisham, confirmed that Dr. Steve Jenison was brought on as an acting deputy secretary to help combat the growing presence of COVID-19 in the state. 

Meyers Sackett said Jenison was unavailable for an interview with NM Political Report as he is “focused on assisting the state with its actions in the face of this pandemic right now,” and added that the department sees Jenison’s expertise as an integral part of combating the rapid spread of COVID-19.

“DOH and the state as a whole is using the most effective tools and, in this case, bringing in additional expertise during this emergent time,” Meyers Sackett said in an email to NM Political Report on Sunday.

Meyers Sackett said Jenison started last week to help DOH Secretary Kathyleen Kunkel. 

“DOH has an extreme amount of need right now as far as managing this crisis,” Meyers Sackett said. 

Jenison is a clinical virologist and previously worked for the DOH where he served as the medical director of the DOH’s infectious diseases bureau for 15 years. According to the governor’s office, prior to working with DOH, Jenison was a faculty member at the University of New Mexico’s Health Sciences Center where he helped with the response to the 1993 hantavirus outbreak.

Last week Lujan Grisham announced the first three confirmed cases of COVID-19 in New Mexico. Since then there have been a total of 13 presumptive positive cases in the state.