Recently AppleTree Educational Center made it known on Facebook that one of its employees tested positive. They shut down the school for this week to sterilize and to get everyone crossing paths with the teacher tested. They will readmit those who do not have the virus next week.
The Department of Health’s Public Information Officer David Morgan was asked the following questions about contact tracing, which has proven to be an effective tool to contain and prevent infection in an economy that is opening back up. People found to be exposed to someone who has tested positive are tested and isolated if they too test positive, so they in turn do not spread the virus.
1. Can you tell me how the state is determining how many COVID-19 contact tracers are to be hired and fielded?
The State of New Mexico is hiring up to 250 residents for temporary positions. The position was advertised and closed after only a few days after receiving more than 2,000 applicants from across the state. Positions will be assigned coverage areas across the state.
Of those positions, seven regional managers will be hired with up to 35 supervisors being hired as needed. (The supervisors will be contact tracers, but with additional administrative responsibilities.)
Currently, we have three regional managers hired and eight supervisors. Of the frontline contact tracers, 17 so far have been hired with training underway this week.
2. Is the hiring and training being done by the state? What state department is doing it?
The hiring is being done by us here at the Department of Health. Training includes not just the procedures, but the software, hardware (laptops, how to access our computer network, etc.) and the all-important HIPAA training for protection of patient privacy.
3. How many trackers have been hired and where are they working?
Number of trackers above. The contact tracers will be working a combination of locally and regionally depending on caseload. Most tracers will work regionally, but for example, if numbers start to swell in Albuquerque again, as they did briefly in April, tracers will be reassigned as needed to Bernalillo County – or wherever they’re needed in the state.
4. Does Sierra County have its own tracker?
No, they’re assigned regionally, not necessarily by county of residence. Contact tracing is a job that can be done remotely from anywhere in the state, so while they will be grouped primarily by region, the tracers could be from anywhere in the state.
5. Last week two more cases were found in Sierra County. Can you tell me anything about those two cases? (One more case has been reported in the interim; bringing the total number of cases in the County up to four.)
It was a couple in their 70s.
6. How many people were contacted who may have been infected by the two cases?
Contact tracing is still underway in these and many other cases around the state so an exact number of people contacted in these two cases are unavailable.