SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — As nationwide demand for health protection equipment surges, New Mexico's health care system has a limited statewide stock of about 44,000 snug-fitting N95 face masks that protect medical workers from the coronavirus by filtering out small airborne particles, state officials said.
New Mexico also has about 2.4 million exam gloves, 70,500 medical gowns and 234,000 surgical masks that offer less protection from virus infection than N95 masks, state officials said in response to an inquiry from The Associated Press about the state's stockpile of health protection equipment supplies.
The information provided to the AP by the state Health Departmentwas drawn from a survey conducted by officials who received reports from 28 of New Mexico's 33 counties, said department spokesman David Morgan.
The first N95 medical masks to reach the U.S. since February arrived by plane and ship this week, with trucks on hand to take them to coronavirus hot spots around the country. New Mexico health officials said the state has received 75% of its allotment of protective equipment from the Strategic National Stockpile as the state and independent health care providers work to establish additional avenues for supplies.
Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said she has urged federal authorities to make New Mexico a higher priority in the distributing medical supplies. The state expects to receive a mobile U.S. Army hospital soon to expand local capacity to treat severely ill coronavirus patients, said Lujan Grisham, a Democrat.
The governor encouraged New Mexico residents to wear face coverings in public to limit the spread of the coronavirus.
“Wearing a face covering is no guarantee, but it can help and you are encouraged to do so,” the governor tweeted Thursday during an online question-and-answer session.
Beyond New Mexico, the mayor of Los Angeles has urged the city's 4 million residents to wear masks in public, and the Trump administration on Thursday was formalizing new guidance on face coverings.
Confirmed COVID-19 cases across New Mexico increased Thursday by 11% to 403, with seven deaths and about 30 people hospitalized. Infections have been detected across 21 of the state's 33 counties.
For most people, the 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
New Mexico Human Service Secretary David Scrase has warned that infections may spread to between 250,000 people and 1.25 million in New Mexico. The state has a current population of about 2.1 million.
The state is following CDC guidance for health care workers on conserving and possibly sterilizing used protective gear in the event of acute shortages.