Noticias

New Mexico health providers tighten testing criteria amid shortage of supplies

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Health care workers at Presbyterian Santa Fe Medical Center’s COVID-19 drive-up testing site check their equipment before beginning testing earlier this year. Presbyterian is one of three health providers halting testing for people who are asymptomatic, but it will continue to test people exposed to someone with a known COVID-19 infection.

As COVID-19 cases climb in the state, access to testing supplies is slowing — leading several major health care providers to stop testing people who are asymptomatic in both Albuquerque and Santa Fe.

In a joint news release, University of New Mexico Hospital and the Presbyterian and Lovelace health care systems said Wednesday they will “now only conduct testing for patients with COVID-19 symptoms.”

Presbyterian — which has facilities in Albuquerque, Santa Fe and around the state — will continue to test people exposed to someone with a known COVID-19 infection, however.

Beth Bailey, a spokeswoman for TriCore Reference Laboratories, which conducts testing for the three entities, said TriCore can conduct 3,700 tests per day.

The release said all three providers are experiencing a temporary disruption in accessing testing supplies. Since the virus began sweeping across the nation early in the year, some health care providers around the country have reported running out of testing supplies for at least a short time.

“This supply shortage for our local hospitals is an issue nationwide,” said David Morgan, spokesman for the New Mexico Department of Health, by email Wednesday. “The best way to assure it’s temporary is to slow viral spread.”

Morgan said the Health Department’s statewide lab can still conduct 2,600 tests per day, and other health care providers around the state are also conducting tests on a daily basis.

“There’s a national and state challenge to securing sufficient testing resources,” said Arturo Delgado, spokesman for Christus St. Vincent Regional Medical Center. “This means that we have to continue to be thoughtful in our conservation and utilization of tests by prioritizing those with symptoms and to reduce the risk of potential exposure.”

Delgado did not respond to a follow-up query as to whether the hospital would limit COVID-19 testing to just those people who have symptoms for the virus.

New Mexico’s testing capacity has ramped up during the crisis, and it now can test several thousand people a day. Health officials on Tuesday reported tests have topped 481,000 since the pandemic in the state began in mid-March.

However, that doesn’t mean 481,000 New Mexicans have been tested, since some — including front-line emergency responders and health care workers — likely get tested more than once as they continue to deal with the crisis.

“We don’t have a snapshot of what that number looks like,” Morgan said. “This data was not consistently gathered from the start of the pandemic to now.”

He said the state is working on a way to compile that information.

Officials with the health care providers said symptoms meeting the criteria for testing include fever or chills, cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, a loss of taste or smell, congestion, fatigue, headache, nausea and diarrhea.

Workers who do not show symptoms of the respiratory virus and who have not been exposed to someone who has it need to check with the Health Department’s website to find out where they might get tested if they need testing for employment purposes.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


Health care workers at Presbyterian Santa Fe Medical Center’s COVID-19 drive-up testing site check their equipment before beginning testing earlier this year. Presbyterian is one of three health providers halting testing for people who are asymptomatic, but it will continue to test people exposed to someone with a known COVID-19 infection. As COVID-19 cases climb in the state, access to testing supplies is slowing — leading several major health care providers to stop testing people who are asymptomatic in both Albuquerque and Santa Fe.

In a joint news release, University of New Mexico Hospital and the Presbyterian and Lovelace health care systems said Wednesday they will “now only conduct testing for patients with COVID-19 symptoms.”

Presbyterian — which has facilities in Albuquerque, Santa Fe and around the state — will continue to test people exposed to someone with a known COVID-19 infection, however.

Beth Bailey, a spokeswoman for TriCore Reference Laboratories, which conducts testing for the three entities, said TriCore can conduct 3,700 tests per day.

The release said all three providers are experiencing a temporary disruption in accessing testing supplies. Since the virus began sweeping across the nation early in the year, some health care providers around the country have reported running out of testing supplies for at least a short time.

“This supply shortage for our local hospitals is an issue nationwide,” said David Morgan, spokesman for the New Mexico Department of Health, by email Wednesday. “The best way to assure it’s temporary is to slow viral spread.”

Morgan said the Health Department’s statewide lab can still conduct 2,600 tests per day, and other health care providers around the state are also conducting tests on a daily basis.

“There’s a national and state challenge to securing sufficient testing resources,” said Arturo Delgado, spokesman for Christus St. Vincent Regional Medical Center. “This means that we have to continue to be thoughtful in our conservation and utilization of tests by prioritizing those with symptoms and to reduce the risk of potential exposure.”

Delgado did not respond to a follow-up query as to whether the hospital would limit COVID-19 testing to just those people who have symptoms for the virus.

New Mexico’s testing capacity has ramped up during the crisis, and it now can test several thousand people a day. Health officials on Tuesday reported tests have topped 481,000 since the pandemic in the state began in mid-March.

However, that doesn’t mean 481,000 New Mexicans have been tested, since some — including front-line emergency responders and health care workers — likely get tested more than once as they continue to deal with the crisis.

“We don’t have a snapshot of what that number looks like,” Morgan said. “This data was not consistently gathered from the start of the pandemic to now.”

He said the state is working on a way to compile that information.

Officials with the health care providers said symptoms meeting the criteria for testing include fever or chills, cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, a loss of taste or smell, congestion, fatigue, headache, nausea and diarrhea.

Workers who do not show symptoms of the respiratory virus and who have not been exposed to someone who has it need to check with the Health Department’s website to find out where they might get tested if they need testing for employment purposes.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.