New Mexico offers special COVID-19 testing hours for food handlers

As part of the state’s proactive testing efforts to identify, isolate and trace new cases, the New Mexico Department of Health designated special statewide COVID-19 testing hours for all employees who work to provide New Mexican families with food.

NMDOH says the testing time slots from 8 to 11 a.m. each Monday will be for workers at restaurants, grocery stores, farmers’ markets, distribution centers and food manufacturing facilities.

David Morgan, spokesperson for the NMDOH, said “we are encouraging all food handlers to get tested. It is free and normal turnover times for results are usually 24-72 hours for positive, for negative it may take longer. We are currently working on our infrastructure to make it easier for the public to get the results back quicker.”

The state this month reopened businesses with restrictions.

“We have to remain vigilant about testing and ask the public to continue to practice all safety precautions at this time,” he said.

All public offices are currently conducting appointment-based testing and outreach testing in the communities for local businesses — from big box stores to day care centers to nursing homes.

“We have to be sure we have enough people on hand to administer the testing. The testing is not mandatory. What we are saying, and the Environment Department is saying, is that any one in the workforce is an essential worker. It is an opportunity to be able to get tested and to know your status. We want to make sure that we are reducing the chances of the virus to continue to spread,” he said.

According to Morgan, there are many misconceptions about how quarantine and self-isolation works and how individuals can be exposed.

“Quarantine for 14 days does not eliminate the possibility of contracting the virus. It is similar to the flu season. COVID-19 does not spread any differently than the flu does. You can be previously tested and be exposed to the virus at a later date.”

Testing efforts to stop the spread

Many people who are infected with coronavirus are not experiencing symptoms while still having the potential to pass the virus to others.

“The data show nationwide that cases vary from state to state. We understand that there is an emotional component with having to shelter in place, combined with not being able to collect a paycheck, people begin to experience fatigue. We need to remember that, even though economies have reopened, it does not mean that COVID-19 went away. We have to continue prevention against the virus. We just cannot let our guard down,” Morgan said.

According to NMDOH, individuals react differently to COVID-19 exposure.

“This virus is new and unpredictable. We are learning more about it every day,” he said.

“Now we can help our essential food industry workers access proactive testing for COVID-19. Food industry employers are strongly urged to take advantage of this testing. Broad-scale testing will ultimately result in more lives saved,” stated Department of Health Cabinet Secretary Kathy Kunkel, in a release.

Photo by David Emrich on Unsplash
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