In episode 81 we check back for new developments on some of the impactful stories from the Your New Mexico Government team from the past couple of months. Did UNM Hospital cleaning crews who work in harm's way get the PPE they need? What about the Albuquerque police who waited down the road when a peaceful protest became a violent scene where a man was shot? Finally, are the restaurants we love and miss, and all the employees who keep them running, doing ok? It's not often in a fast moving news environment that we get to take a look back. Today's episode is a hat tip to the big stories that almost got away.
Dave Mayberry from Marpac Medical tells us about his company's efforts to get personal protective equipment (PPE) to UNM Hospital and others that suffered a shortage earlier this year when the threat of coronavirus overwhelmed medical providers. He says Marpac is also making thousands of cloth masks for businesses and individuals.
KUNM reporter Yasmin Khan checks in after reporting more than a month ago that UNMH staff and the cleaning crew were lacking the PPE they need to stay safe while working. Khan says they still don't have all the equipment they need. LTNM's Executive Producer Marisa Demarco reached out to UNMH spokesperson Mark Rudi to get more details.
KUNM: After our coverage of custodial workers expressing that they have not been given enough PPE, Dave Mayberry of Marpac reached out to us. The company began creating N95-like masks that have been tested and shown to be as effective as N95s. He wanted to help the workers. He reached out to Dr. Eve Espey of your PPE committee and Juan Flores of environmental services to talk about it and never heard back. Does UNMH have a response about why they would not have made these masks available to custodial workers? Has anything changed with regard to the PPE given to custodial workers?
MARK RUDI: The University of New Mexico Hospital has maintained sufficient PPE and crafted specific job-related guidance for employees on what protective material to wear and when. We are not accepting PPE donations for use by health care workers in the hospital, as there are a number of regulatory approvals that equipment used in the hospital must have, and donations of PPE do not always have those approvals. At this moment we have not altered our usual supply chain process for the same reason.
KUNM: So the custodial workers we spoke with were asking for more PPE, specifically N95s. Did they get that? If not, why not consider the offer from Marpac, which makes masks that test comparably in filtration ability to N95s?
RUDI: Our multidisciplinary PPE committee continues to meet regularly, review the developing literature and information, and issue guidance specific to units and type of work being done. We are following that guidance for issuance of appropriate PPE to all UNM Hospitals staff, including our staff in environmental services.
KUNM: Have any of the custodial workers concerns—raised in our stories and outlined in bullet points to you—been addressed?
RUDI: As we have stated, we have multiple avenues for employees to reach out with concerns. All employee concerns are addressed and if the employee identifies themselves we follow up with them on their complaint.
Deborah Kuidis is a former APD deputy chief and SWAT team commander. She criticized the police department in an op-ed in the Albuquerque Journal for standing by, away from the scene, while the protest of a statue of the brutal conquistador Juan de Oñate near the Albuquerque Museum led to a melee and the shooting of a protester.
Carol Wight, CEO of the New Mexico Restaurant Association, says restaurants are opening at half capacity and just barely hanging on. The restaurants are figuring out how to operate safely, she says, but they cannot afford any more financial hits.
And some local coronavirus news:
Thursday, four states posted single-day highs, spikes in infections. That includes our neighbor, Texas, which had almost 6,000 new cases, according to the Washington Post. Westerly neighbor Arizona is also seeing a sharp rise in the number of cases.
In New Mexico, five more people have died, officials say, and 207 more people have tested positive for coronavirus. The the upward trend in cases—attributable in part to travel to those neighboring states and then back, public officials say—will pause the reopening process by at least a week. If people don't socially distance, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham says, schools will not be able to reopen in the fall. Still, so far, the number of people who are hospitalized for COVID-19 has gone down.
In the Otero County Prison, 76% of people imprisoned there are unable to recover from the virus, the Albuquerque Journal reports, in part because of how people sleep, dorm-style, on cots 3-feet apart, says Health Secretary Kathy Kunkel. The prison is on the same property as the ICE detention facility there and the federal prison, where there are also outbreaks.
We're keeping a complete list of the resources and volunteer opportunities that we find for each episode at bit.ly/YNMGhub. And here's what we got from today: Learn more about the PPE supply efforts of Marpac Medical; read articles by Carol Wight for the New Mexico Restaurant Association; watch the TED-X ABQ talk given by Deborah Kuidis; check out the reporting from Yasmin Khan