BY SARA SCOTT
Los Alamos County Council Chair
Thursday April 30th the Governor announced her phased plan for reopening the economy; I’ve posted the slides regarding what each of these phases will include and the criteria that will be used to evaluate readiness for progression along this path forward (see losalamosnm.us, COVID-19 button). Phase 1 is currently anticipated to begin mid-May, but all proposed timelines are contingent on continued social distancing. The planned reopening will occur in the context of the continuing pandemic. It has not gone away, the virus can and will continue to be transmitted between us and we will see additional cases.
As a member of the statewide Mayor’s Council providing input, advice, and feedback regarding the reopening plan, I have the opportunity to engage not only in the general planning efforts but also with industry specific groups. Please share ideas you have regarding the reopening path forward with members of the County Council Reopening Subcommittee (Randall Ryti, James Robinson, and me) or other members of the Council and County staff; we have and will continue to represent our community’s perspectives on this process.
The input received so far from the business community, educational system, health care facilities, and private citizens has been very valuable, and these ideas have been shared through the Mayor’s Council discussions. Examples include challenges in obtaining personal protective equipment and cleaning supplies, the need for continued improvements in availability and timeliness of data (e.g. testing, contact tracing, and information regarding criteria for phased reopening), ideas for how to realistically implement some of the COVID-Safe Practices for businesses, and questions regarding how recreational activities will be addressed. At this time businesses struggling to find protection and cleaning supplies should contact the Chamber of Commerce for help in identifying vendors with needed stock, and if needed, could also contact the state’s COVID resource email at email@example.com.
As we proceed with reopening, we’ll need to balance our ability to even more rigorously continue our COVID-Safe Practices with the opportunity to engage with more businesses and take advantage of additional recreation and gathering opportunities. During this deliberate process, as we check the data each step of the way, I anticipate that if we see an increase in spread or a decrease in our ability to identify, trace, and isolate new infections the Governor will modify the planned path forward to address the identified risks. The goal is to avoid a spike in infections, as seen for previous pandemics when closures were relaxed, and help optimize the availability of our health care system and professionals as well as other critical infrastructure.
The COVID-Safe Practices for all New Mexicans are those that we are already well aware of and include:
- In general, stay at home: avoid unnecessary travel, and always stay at home when you are sick (except for medical emergencies)
- Wash your hands frequently
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands
- Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces
- Watch for symptoms of COVID-19
If you must go out:
- Wear a multilayer cloth face covering in public settings except when eating, drinking, or exercising outdoors
- Maintain a 6-foot distance from others
- Avoid gatherings
- Protect vulnerable populations by finding ways to connect without face-to-face contact
An initial set of COVID-Safe Practices has been developed for both employers and retailers (they have been provided to our business community through the Chamber of Commerce); safe practices specific to approximately 20 industry sectors are also under development (e.g. gyms, salons, tourism, I’ve posted a complete list on the County website). These provide an important evaluation of each type of activity to best determine ways to minimize the spread of COVID-19.
COVID-19 testing is still being conducted at the hospital, medical offices, and the Public Health Office (they have appointments available, call 662-4038). The state eligibility for testing includes those that are asymptomatic but have been in close or indirect contact with a confirmed case and/or have had a fever or cough in the last 2 weeks. The typical turnaround time for receiving results is 1-5 days. Daily updates regarding the spread of the virus are provided by the New Mexico Department of Health (please see cv.nmhealth.org). It is possible that for those tested outside of the County, a positive result may not immediately be reflected in the County’s statistics. The County continues to aggressively work to increase the availability of testing in Los Alamos.
Let’s continue to work together and be kind and patient with each other – and please ask for help if you need it. There are many resources available and the County help line (662-8333) is one option for helping you find them. Please keep your determination strong as we enter this new phase of the pandemic – I know together we will do our best to minimize the impact of the virus to our families, friends, and our community.