ALBUQUERQUE – Data from the New Mexico Health Department shows COVID-19 infections among health care workers in the state have spiked as intensive care units remain full and nurses call for more protective equipment.
The data shows 492 workers were diagnosed in May, marking a 219% increase from the 154 workers who tested positive as of April 21.
“The increase was completely and totally expected and would normally just be a proportional number of cases,” Human Services Secretary David Scrase told the Albuquerque Journal.
Overall, confirmed cases statewide have surpassed 9,060, state health officials said Monday. The death toll stands at 400, with a San Juan County man in his 30s among the latest to die.
For some – especially older adults and people with existing health problems – the new coronavirus can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death. But for most people, it causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough.
As for the health workers who have tested positive, the largest increase came in Bernalillo County – home to three COVID-19 hub hospitals. San Juan and McKinley counties, which account for about half of the state’s overall cases, had a surge among health care workers. Doña Ana and Sandoval counties also had notable increases.
Many hospitals aren’t revealing how many workers have tested positive, making it difficult to know which facilities are having the worst outbreaks.
Eleanor Chavez, executive director of the local chapter of the National Union of Hospital and Health Care Employees, said her union is advocating for numbers of sick workers to be released.
Chavez said supplies of protective equipment should be increased because many nurses and staff have to reuse masks for days at a time. She also said infections among health care workers are increasing, not decreasing.