ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico now has more than 2,000 coronavirus cases with seven more deaths, pushing that total to at least 65, officials said Tuesday.
State Department of Health officials announced 103 new COVID-19 cases that increased the total number of cases to 2,072.
They said five of the new deaths occurred in Bernalillo County and four were residents of the La Vida Llena retirement home in Albuquerque.
The fifth county death was a resident of the Central Desert Behavioral Health facility in Albuquerque with the other deaths in Chaves County and McKinley County.
Bernalillo County, the state’s most populous, now has 585 coronavirus cases.
Meanwhile, University of New Mexico scientists and clinical staff have started to sterilize and reuse single-use personal protective equipment, joining other universities and hospitals around the country in an effort to salvage dwindling supplies amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Medical facilities across the country are looking for alternative gear, while others are using a sterilization technique to help with decreasing supplies critical in keeping health professionals and patients safe, KOAT-TV reported.
For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death.
Personal protective equipment is running in short supply as an increasing number of people contract COVID-19, threatening employees at medical facilities around the world, officials said.
“When the virus goes into a specific geographic region, PPE gets utilized very quickly,” professor of medicine D.J. Perkins said. “There is a PPE crisis in many places around the country.”
Healthcare providers have used a method to sterilize and reuse protective gear for the last three weeks, an idea that came from the University of Nebraska Medical Center, Perkins said.
“We began investigating in late February, vaporized hydrogen peroxide, because the hydrogen peroxide vapor can penetrate the environment quite well,” Perkins said. “We believe that it can get into the crevices and different layers of the mask.”
The process can take up to four hours, but 1,000 masks can be sterilized at a time, officials said.
“You can essentially process around 3,000 masks per day,” Perkins said, adding that N95 masks and protective eyewear can be repurposed up to 20 times.