Town hall with NM scientists provides answers to questions about COVID-19

New Mexico is one of two states – the other is New York – that meets the gating criteria set by the White House for reopening, according to a group of public health and crisis experts. A website called covidexitstrategy.org is mapping the state-by-state response to reopening and, according to the map, only New Mexico and New York meet the gating criteria established by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The organization is made up of public health and crisis experts who are nonpartisan and worked at the federal level during the Ebola epidemic in West Africa, according to the site. The criteria include things like the number of ICU beds available and the downward trajectory of documented cases within a 14-day period. Dr. David Scrase, New Mexico’s secretary of the Health and Human Services Department, talked about the map and New Mexico’s criteria for reopening during a town hall meeting broadcast live through social media Wednesday along with Dr. Richard Larson, vice chancellor for research with the University of New Mexico Health Science.

With COVID-19 looming, NM hospitals tossed masks and other protective gear

“The hospital and the country knew it’s coming. And administration and staff are running around throwing out all sorts of supplies,” said a nurse at Albuquerque’s Presbyterian Hospital, one of the state’s largest medical centers. A 20-year employee of the hospital, she requested anonymity because she had not been authorized to speak to the media. 

“It’s sad, it’s horrific,” she said, ticking off a list of what was tossed out: hand sanitizer, masks, intravenous tubing, hospital gowns, bandages. “The whole closet.”

Pregnant women seek alternatives to hospital birth during pandemic

Professionals who assist with birthing center deliveries and at-home births in New Mexico say they are seeing more interest from soon-to-be parents because of the COVID-19 pandemic. One small midwife clinic in Albuquerque, Anidar ABQ Midwifery, is now getting four to five calls a day for at-home birth queries whereas, prior to the pandemic, it normally received about four to five calls every week or two, according to Claire Bettler, a certified midwife and nurse who owns the clinic. Birthing centers, which provide a more home-like setting for low-risk deliveries, are also seeing an increase in interest. Jessica Frechette-Gutfreund, midwife and executive director of Breath of My Heart Birthplace, said the Española-based birth center has seen its weekly call volume triple. “We’re getting somewhere between five and ten new inquiries a week.

Former congressional candidate Carol Miller tested positive for COVID-19

Former Independent and Green Party congressional candidate Carol Miller tested positive for COVID-19 more than 21 days ago. Miller ran for Congress as an Independent in 2008 and for the Green Party in a special election in 1997. Miller is 73, which puts her in a high-risk category. But she is asymptomatic. She hasn’t had any of the symptoms – no fever, cough or shortness of breath – of this type of coronavirus.

New website connects volunteers who can help healthcare providers during pandemic

After seeing a need to support healthcare providers during the public health emergency, University of New Mexico medical student David Gangwish created a grassroots organization to help providers during the COVID-19 pandemic. Gangwish created Corona Care NM, which connects volunteers with healthcare providers. The volunteers help with childcare, pet sitting or household chores such as cleaning, cooking and grocery shopping while providers are working in hospitals during the pandemic. Gangwish, who will soon head for a residency in urology, said he got the idea because medical professionals were talking within the field about the problem of managing child care if the public schools closed. The Public Education Department moved to distance learning for the rest of spring semester last week.

Internal emails show how chaos at the CDC slowed the early response to coronavirus

ProPublica is a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative newsroom. Sign up for The Big Story newsletter to receive stories like this one in your inbox. On Feb. 13, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention sent out an email with what the author described as an “URGENT” call for help. The agency was struggling with one of its most important duties: keeping track of Americans suspected of having the novel coronavirus.

Random racist incident in Las Cruces leads to a volunteer response

A racist tag left on a woman’s wall in Las Cruces led to a neighbor’s response. The tagging, a backward swastika and a crossed-out Star of David, were spray painted on a wall that separates Wanda Saip Ray’s backyard from the railroad tracks on the western edge of Las Cruces. Saip Ray said she wasn’t aware of the graffiti because she hadn’t been on the other side of the wall in a while. But while taking a walk with her husband last Wednesday, Las Cruces resident Megan McQueen saw the two tags. She wanted to do something but still practice social distancing.

Congress tackles the opioid epidemic. But how much will it help?

The nation’s opioid epidemic has been called today’s version of the 1980s AIDS crisis. In a speech Monday, President Donald Trump pushed for a tougher federal response, emphasizing a tough-on-crime approach for drug dealers and more funding for treatment. And Congress is upping the ante, via a series of hearings — including one scheduled to last Wednesday through Thursday — to study legislation that might tackle the unyielding scourge, which has cost an estimated $1 trillion in premature deaths, health care costs and lost wages since 2001. Dr. Leana Wen, an emergency physician by training and the health commissioner for hard-hit Baltimore, said Capitol Hill has to help communities at risk of becoming overwhelmed. “We haven’t seen the peak of the epidemic.

Heinrich wants prohibition on gun violence research by CDC to end

Following the latest mass shooting, one of New Mexico’s U.S. Senators wants to repeal an amendment that bars the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from researching gun violence and its impact on public health. U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich announced his opposition to the Dickey Amendment Tuesday, saying that CDC research is necessary to help find solutions to curb gun violence. “I am calling for the repeal of the Dickey Amendment because I am fed up with tragedies like the mass shootings in Parkland, Las Vegas, and Aztec,” Heinrich said. I am also heartsick over the estimated 91 Americans killed each day by gun violence.”

The Dickey Amendment, implemented in 1996, specifically stopped the CDC from using any funds to “advocate or promote gun control.” The National Rifle Association was a driving force behind the amendment at the time. The amendment itself is gaining attention, as mass shootings have increased over recent years, and debate over why has no authority to look back on.

‘Extreme’ use of painkillers and doctor shopping plague Medicare, new report says

In Washington, D.C., a Medicare beneficiary filled prescriptions for 2,330 pills of oxycodone, hydromorphone and morphine in a single month last year — written by just one of the 42 health providers who prescribed the person such drugs. In Illinois, a different Medicare enrollee received 73 prescriptions for opioid drugs from 11 prescribers and filled them at 20 different pharmacies. He sometimes filled prescriptions at multiple pharmacies on the same day. These are among the examples cited in a sobering new report released today by the inspector general of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The IG found that heavy painkiller use and abuse remains a serious problem in Medicare’s prescription drug program, known as Part D, which serves more than 43 million seniors and disabled people.