March 25, 2020

State announces new public health orders to protect PPE supply

Airman 1st Class Elora J. Martinez/U.S. Air Force

Senior Airman Alexis Lopez, dental assistant with the 319th Medical Group, demonstrates proper sanitary procedure by putting on a face mask at the medical treatment facility at Grand Forks Air Force Base, N.D., Sept. 7, 2017.

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham announced two new public health orders from the state Department of Health Wednesday to protect the supply of personal protective equipment for health care workers in the state.

The orders are necessary to try to slow the spread COVID-19, a type of coronavirus, according to the state. There has been a shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) for health care workers across the nation and many have taken to Twitter to plead for more. On Monday nurses held up signs in front of an Oakland hospital to protest the need for more personal protective equipment.

Lujan Grisham said during a recent press conference that she asked for more personal protective equipment during a phone call with the White House but she was told she would only receive 25 percent of what she asked for from national stockpiles.

That 25 percent came in poor condition, according to the statement. Lujan Grisham said in a press conference this week that some were expired.

The first order prohibits non-essential health services. That is defined as services that can be delayed for three months without undue risk to the patient’s health, according to the statement.

Health services deemed essential, including emergency care, surgery or other treatments that would result in a serious condition getting worse, or the full suite of family planning services, are exempted from the order, according to the statement

Lujan Grisham’s stay-at-home order Monday exempted health clinics that provide reproductive care but Ellie Rushforth, reproductive rights attorney with American Civil Liberties Union-New Mexico, said delays in reproductive care are already happening due to the pandemic.

Some organizations in New Mexico, including those that provide funds for abortion care and the American Civil Liberties Union-New Mexico, have said they worry that reproductive health may suffer during this time of crisis. ACLU-NM wrote letters to elected leaders on Monday to offer guidelines on protecting reproductive health care during the global pandemic.

Each health care provider has three days to submit to the Health Department a policy addressing how it will comply and identifying procedures deemed essential and non-essential, according to the news release.

The second order prohibits medical providers or wholesale medical suppliers from selling, allocating or distributing personal protective equipment without approval from the state. Earlier this week, Target apologized for selling N95 masks, which are one of the types of masks medical providers currently need, on the shelves in some parts of Washington state, according to The New York Times.

Both orders take effect Wednesday, March 25, and both continue until the governor rescinds them, according to the statement.

Both orders include civil administrative penalties, including fines up to $5,000 per violation, for willful violation, in addition to other civil or criminal penalties that may be available, according to the release.