Fight back. Where to get tests or vaccines

While numbers of COVID-19 cases are declining statewide and the mask mandate has been lifted, health-care experts in New Mexico and Rio Rancho say residents still need to be careful.

“First and foremost, be prepared,” said Dr. Denise A. Gonzales, medical director at Presbyterian Hospital and the founding chief medical officer at Presbyterian Rust Medical Center in Rio Rancho when it opened in 2011.

“Request the free tests that are available to have at home so if you do start to develop symptoms, you do not have to go anywhere to get a test,” she said.

After the test, Gonzales said residents should isolate at home until the test result shows a negative reading. If it comes up positive, people should stay in their rooms, make sure to wear a mask and that others wear masks.

“It’s not just about us,” she said. “It is about those in our households who we love and care for. It’s about our friends and community.”

Dr. Gonzales

Plenty of supplies

The New Mexico Department of Health is in the midst of a push to get residents to take Gonzales’ advice. The state has plenty of weapons to fight the latest surge of Omicron.

The problem is, New Mexicans aren’t exactly jumping to take advantage of them.

The state has “lots of new, available resources, some of which are gong unused,” said Health Equity Communications Manager Katy Diffendorfer. “Tons of free antigen tests are available, but not everyone is ordering them.”

New Mexico has up to 4 million antigen tests available from the federal government but residents “may not be taking full advantage of these programs and ordering tests before they get sick,” she said. “Ordering these free tests to have on hand can really help keep our state running, schools open and more.”

It’s not just the antigen tests.

Oral treatments, “which could be a game changer in learning to live with COVID-19 due to their ease of access and outpatient options, are also by some mystery seeing poor uptake,” she said. “Vaccination events and testing opportunities are being under-utilized.”

“We are definitely trying to make sure people understand all the resources that are available to them and increase access wherever possible,” Diffendorfer said.

The state recently hit a milestone, climbing past 500,000 total cases. The seven-day positivity rate was 17.9 percent.

“Very few of us have not had our lives affected,” Human Services Secretary Dr. David Scrase said in a recent press conference.

New Mexico hospitals, he said, are still operating at 100 percent capacity. Additional staff has been added to help the hospitals to keep up.

“Don’t go to the emergency room just to get a test,” he said. “We’re swamped right now.”

As of Jan 31, 88.4 of the state’s hospital employees have completed their primary series of vaccinations, 74.8 have gotten the booster, 4.9 percent are partially vaccinated and 5.9 percent have approved exemptions.

The health department is also seeking providers to administer the vaccine. Providers can sign up at