BY MAIRE O’NEILL
As Los Alamos County approaches its 100th case of COVID-19, Los Alamos County Manager Harry Burgess noted the “grim statistics” announced by the Department of Health Tuesday with 2112 new cases in the state and 28 deaths. He said County Emergency Manager Beverley Simpson had indicated that the state is catching up on their backlog of tests and that the numbers for the next couple of days could reflect that. Wednesday’s numbers again reached a record high with 2,897 statewide with five more cases in Los Alamos.
Also on Tuesday, Los Alamos National Laboratory Deputy Director of Operations Kelly Beierschmitt told Council that the Lab has 220 confirmed cases and that an employee has died. To date the Lab has performed more than 8,000 tests but Beierschmitt noted that in the last two weeks there have been significant spikes in Lab case numbers just as in the community.
“As a result of that we’ve tapped the brakes and we began two weeks ago to reduce the population on-site,” he said.
Los Alamos County has had 11 employees test positive since March, Burgess told the Los Alamos Reporter Wednesday. He said that because so many County employees live outside the County, this number doesn’t necessarily correlate with recent increases for the County reported by the state.
“Based on our experience to date, it appears that one of these cases was a work-related exposure, while the rest were apparently from other sources. In a few cases, the individuals haven’t even been to the workplace during the preceding week/month, and were telecommuting,” Burgess said. “We continue to monitor our employees and there have been several potential exposures reported, especially lately as the surge has occurred, but these are the positive cases we are aware of.”
He said County employees follow the state guidelines and if they have a positive test they have to quarantine for 14 days.
“If the Department of Health calls due to contact tracing, then the employee must follow their direction, which has included quarantining in some instances. Our additional practice is to disinfect the entire area as soon as we learn of anyone testing positive or has a suspected exposure and/or symptoms,” Burgess said.
Since August 13, Los Alamos Public Schools has reported that five staff members have tested positive, three of them from the Central Office, one from Facilities and one from Los Alamos Middle School, which has been on remote learning since the beginning of the school year. Some 18 students have tested positive; two from Aspen Elementary, one each from Barranca, Chamisa and Mountain. Four Los Alamos Middle School students have tested positive and eight Los Alamos High School/Topper Freshman Academy students have tested positive.
The latest statistics posted by the Department of Health note the following numbers of cases by age group in Los Alamos County:
- 0-9 3 cases
- 10-19 22 cases
- 20-29 19 cases
- 30-39 15 cases
- 40-49 13 cases
- 50-59 7 cases
- 60-69 11 cases
- 70-79 2 cases
- 80-89 4 cases
- 90+ 1 case
Los Alamos Medical Center CEO John Whiteside said Wednesday evening that LAMC does not give specific information on how many if any COVID-19 cases are in-house but noted that the facility is “still okay on beds and staffing”. He said the hospital has its normal number of beds but has contingency plans if things get worse.
“It has been challenging, but we have a great community that is doing so much,” Whiteside said.
He asked that people wash their hands, listen to the governor, and stay safe. He noted that the hospital well stocked with personal protective equipment and supplies.
“We took advantage of the lull to resupply,” Whiteside said.
Meanwhile, the Department of Health continues to advise anyone who has symptoms of COVID-19 infection, such as fever, cough, shortness of breath, chills, repeated shaking with chills, muscle pain, headache, sore throat, congestion or runny nose, nausea or vomiting, diarrhea, and/or loss of taste or smell to call their health care provider or the NMDOH COVID-19 hotline immediately (1-855-600-3453).
Anyone wishing to be tested for COVID-19 in Los Alamos County can register online to obtain a confirmation code which they will need to schedule an appointment at one of the testing sites. Register online at: https://cvtestreg.nmhealth.org/ or call the Public Health Office Monday – Friday between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. at (505) 753-2794 or (505) 662-4038. The Los Alamos Public Health is located at 1183 Diamond Drive in Los Alamos. Test results are available at COVID-19 test results portal.