BY RANDALL RYTI
Los Alamos County Council Chair
As we start 2021, we have completed 10 months under a public health emergency due to the global pandemic. The County continues to support measures to ease and eventually end restrictions related to this emergency. Unfortunately, we are continuing to detect new cases of COVID-19 at or near to our highest per capita levels. It is with sadness that the NM Department of Health reported the first death in the County related to COVID-19 this last weekend.
There are things we can do as individuals to help. First, we can get tested. Testing is being offered every Tuesday from 10 a.m to 2 p.m. at Fuller Lodge or by appointment at the Health Commons (1183 Diamond Drive) through the NM Department of Health (call (505) 662-4038 for an appointment). Samples are being collected for the Curative Test (mouth swab) on Tuesdays, and this testing may be expanded to another day of the week. An announcement will be made to alert the community of this expanded testing opportunity.
You can also request a test online through Vault Health and administer it via a video appointment (please visit learn.vaulthealth.com/nm/ to order a test). A saliva sample is collected for the Vault Health test. This is in addition to COVID-19 testing being offered by some employers. Getting tested and finding positive cases is the best way to limit community spread. You can also do your part by wearing a cloth face covering or mask when you when need to go out in public.
Another benefit of getting tested is that the County may attain a 5% or less positive rate so that we can move to or maintain “yellow” status. This will permit more options for local businesses and slightly larger gatherings. If we can detect positives, contact trace and isolate then we can potentially lower the per capita COVID-19 rate and keep moving toward the “green” status.
The other major thing we can do is to get vaccinated. I encourage everyone to get informed on the vaccines available and sign up at the NM Department of Health vaccine web site (https://cvvaccine.nmhealth.org/). If you entered just your name and age when NM Department of Health first set up this web site you can go back and add more information so that you get notified when your group is ready to receive the vaccine. Soon, New Mexico is moving from Phase 1A to Phase 1B, so people 75+ (or vulnerable populations) and certain essential workers are next in line for vaccinations. The plan indicates people 60+ are scheduled for the spring and everyone (16+) would be eligible in the summer for a vaccination.
As of January 11, during Phase 1A in Los Alamos County, 87 firefighters have been vaccinated (70%) and over 400 vaccinations have been given. Some people have received their second dose. We are expecting substantially more vaccinations next week and in the coming weeks. This summary does not include vaccinations of Los Alamos National Laboratory employees.
I also want to provide an update on the other policy and budget work that Council is doing or will be considering in the near future.
It is my honor to serve as Council Chair and we just held our annual strategic planning session on January 12. We had a productive session with Council and members of the public. There were about 16 members of public participating via Zoom and we received comments from a larger group of people via email. We will be working on revising those priorities and will consider the revised draft document on Jan, 26.
Also on Jan. 26, the Council will be considering the charter and appointments (if the charter is approved) in response to the citizen petition on greenhouse gas emissions. Coming to the Feb. 16 work session are briefings on the Carbon Free Power Project and Department of Energy-Environmental Management on groundwater plumes; and an interim report on the due diligence period for the potential purchase of the former CB Fox and Reel Deal properties.