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Nursing Home Task Force Mitigates Spread of COVID-19

Outreach and training to senior care facilities protects vulnerable populations

May 22, 2020

A multi-agency Nursing Home Task Force coordinated through the City of Albuquerque’s Emergency Operations Center, has conducted numerous inspections at area nursing homes and continues to provide infection control protocols to protect residents and staff at these facilities. Nursing homes, retirement communities and other ‘congregate care facilities’ are at high risk of outbreaks of COVID-19, and residents are among the most vulnerable individuals in terms of severe illness and death.

The task force includes the City of Albuquerque’s Emergency Operations Center, Environmental Health Department, Albuquerque Fire Rescue, Bernalillo County Fire & Rescue, and the New Mexico Department of Health. Each of these agencies brings their own highly specialized technical training and expertise, with the objective of reducing virus transmission and lessening the impact of disease in these vulnerable populations.

“Protecting our most vulnerable populations through proactive outreach and intervention at senior facilities is critical to preventing disease risk for these residents, and the staff who provide their care” said Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller. “We’re grateful that these efforts are decreasing COVID cases in nursing facilities and have brought La Vida Llena’s case count down to zero.”

After walk throughs with facility directors, the task force provides Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and trains staff in the proper use of these materials.  Infection control is prioritized through the establishment of hot, cold, and warm zones. These zones indicate where PPE use is required, and designates areas where it is safe to put on and discard PPE. These infection control measures are a critical element to ensuring that virus is not spread unchecked throughout the community.

The NMDOH and Presbyterian Hospital conduct ongoing weekly COVID-19 testing at facilities to ensure that the new protocols are effective. Residents or staff who test positive are removed to quarantine in order to limit further spread of infection.

The task force has conducted multiple follow ups with facilities and has begun training local fire departments in neighboring communities, including Gallup and Farmington, on implementing these best practices around the uses of space, preparation of food, community gathering guidelines and other steps to protect some of the most vulnerable populations. They will continue to offer assistance and education in order to keep those living in congregate living facilities safe throughout this public health emergency.

As of May 22, the number of positive cases and deaths at nursing home facilities in Bernalillo County is as follows:

  • Total number of residents testing positive for COVID-19: 197
  • Total number of staff testing positive for COVID-19: 145
  • Total number of deaths: 48

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Emergencies challenge the delivery and management of emergency public information, warning and emergency protective action notifications. The Albuquerque Joint Information Center (JIC) functions as a coordinated Albuquerque Metro Area public information system that will gather and analyze data related to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak in New Mexico and serve as a source of accurate and comprehensive information.