SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — Two uncooperative coronavirus patients have been ordered by a New Mexico court to self-isolate.
Department of Health spokesman David Morgan declined to identify the targets of the orders or why they were imposed, the Santa Fe New Mexican reported.
“The people we are isolating are entitled to privacy as their quarantine resulted from a medical issue,” he said. “Any patient in New Mexico is entitled to the same level of patient privacy."
Meanwhile, confirmed coronavirus infections surged Wednesday in a rural New Mexico county where nearly 80% of residents are Native American.
There are 133 newly confirmed cases of COVID-19 in McKinley County on the Arizona state line that includes Zuni Pueblo and parts of the Navajo Nation, health officials reported on Wednesday said.
Statewide infections increased by 239 to more than 3,200 positive tests. Two deaths in McKinley and Sandoval counties, including a hospitalized patient, increased overall fatalities to 112.
The Department of Health recently announced it would seek public health orders to force those who tested positive for COVID-19 to remain isolated or quarantined if they refused to do so voluntarily.
Any offenders could be fined up to $5,000 and jailed for up to six months for each violation, and the state could seek multiple orders against the same person, department officials said.
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.
In other coronavirus developments:
— The state has received a machine that can decontaminate scarce personal protective equipment for reuse by healthcare workers during the outbreak, the Department of Health said.
The department said hospital workers and others should begin saving unsoiled N95 masks for decontamination, which will start this weekend, the department said.
Battelle, a Columbus, Ohio-based research and development nonprofit, repurposed an older chemical decontamination technique to decontaminate N95 masks for reuse, the department said.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency contracted with Battelle for 60 of the machines and then accepted applications to determine what states get them based on need.
— A chile farmer says his workers aren’t tending the fields because they’re worried about contracting COVID-19.
KVIA-TV in El Paso, Texas, reports Sergio Grajeda says fears over the novel coronavirus are keeping workers away from his farm in the Hatch Valley.
Grajeda has more than 100 acres of pecans and chile. He said he employs dozens of workers typically during the harvest. He had to tend to his own fields on Monday.
New Mexico Department of Agriculture spokeswoman Kristie Garcia says the state has not received this specific complaint but has guidance online for farmers and workers to stay safe.
— A spokeswoman for Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said Dona Ana County officials violated the governor's health order prohibiting mass gatherings by allowing an in-person audience at a Board of Commissioners meeting Tuesday, the Las Cruces Sun-News reported.
County Manager Fernando Macias said he didn't know whether county violated the order but that the county tried to structure the meeting as safely as possible.
Lujan Grisham spokeswoman Nora Meyers Sackett said audiences aren't permitted under the order and that county and municipal governments are expected to follow it.
An audience of several dozen attended the meeting, during which the board approved a resolution calling on the state to reopen closed businesses.