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Home | Tag Archives: NMSU covid

Tag Archives: NMSU covid

Activities in NMSU’s Weight Training Center temporarily suspended, Six student athletes, sports staffer test positive for COVID-19

Officials with New Mexico State University announced Tuesday morning that activities at the university’s Coca-Cola Weight Training Center have been temporarily suspended.

The university made the decision at the recommendation of the University Athletics team doctor after six student-athletes and a sports performance staff member tested positive for COVID-19.

The university is working to identify other NMSU students and personnel who may have come in contact with those who tested positive. The facility will reopen after further testing can be completed.

University Athletics continues to operate under its COVID-19 plan, which was reviewed and approved by experts at the university and at the New Mexico’s Department of Health.

For the latest updates on the NMSU system’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, click here.

Author: Justin Bannister – NMSU

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For updates on all news from around Las Cruces, please visit our news partners at Las Cruces Today

In wake of pandemic, NMSU Aggie Health Center moves to telemedicine

The coronavirus outbreak is redefining the value of telehealth in delivering medical services to patients. The efficiency of this type of system could end up reshaping the future of healthcare.

“We can provide services that help keep our students, faculty and staff out of the urgent care clinics and emergency rooms where the risk of COVID-19 transmission is potentially higher,” said Dr. Judi Voelz, medical director for New Mexico State University’s Health and Wellness Center.

NMSU is already on board. They started March 23, providing services to students, faculty and staff using the telehealth model for access to medical and counseling providers, laboratory and pharmacy services.

Before they could start, the staff at Aggie Health needed to set up a version of Zoom teleconferencing service that is compliant with the privacy requirements of the Health Insurance Portability and Accessibility Act (HIPAA).

“We were able to get training for our staff in best practices for telehealth and we started calling clients last week to convert to the telehealth version for all counseling,” said Lori McKee, executive director of the Aggie Health and Wellness Center. “Most of our counseling staff already had web cameras as, that is a standard in their profession. We gradually integrated the medical staff into it and now all patients are evaluated through telehealth.”

The call to the Aggie Health Center is the first step. A triage nurse determines if a face-to-face meeting via Zoom is needed. The doctor or nurse sends an email to the patient for a Zoom meeting appointment. McKee said the system is really not that different from when patients would call to make a same day appointment at the center. It’s just a telehealth appointment instead. Students, faculty or staff connect with a medical provider via cell phone, computer, laptop, or tablet and the assessment happens through a HIPAA protected Internet link.

“The patient or counseling client can see the practitioner and the practitioner can see the patient, take the history, and can do limited exams and recommend treatment if necessary,” Voelz said. “In the course of medical training, we are taught that a large amount of the diagnosis can be made by taking a good history from the patient. Telehealth medicine allows us to extensively talk with the patient.”

If it is necessary, the NMSU student or employee has an appointment scheduled with a medical provider and they go into the health center. If they need lab work or a prescription filled, it works the same way. It begins with a phone call, the telehealth meeting is set up and then patients may come in for lab testing and pick up prescriptions. The center can also call in prescriptions for NMSU students to pharmacies in other cities where they may have returned to shelter in place.

“I’ve called-in prescriptions to Tucson, Phoenix and Houston for our NMSU student patients,” Voelz said. “All they have to do is call.”

The health center is always screening for COVID-19, so if patients have symptoms, they receive high priority at Aggie Health with medical intervention and access for coronavirus testing.

The telehealth system protects both patients and healthcare professionals.

“Healthcare workers don’t need to examine a person who may be infected with coronavirus and may not be showing symptoms yet,” Voelz said. “Telehealth limits face-to-face contact, protecting all our employees from a possible exposure to coronavirus.

“Being able to provide telehealth at the Aggie Health and Wellness Center keeps us connected to the NMSU community we are here to serve,” Voelz said. “It gives them a way to call, get answers to questions and get services like lab and pharmacy, so they can stay home and be safe and well.”

NMSU employees pay $20 for the telehealth visit while students’ visit is included in the health fee they pay by semester.

NMSU students, faculty and staff are encouraged to call Aggie Health at 575-646-1512. The center is receiving calls to make appointments for telehealth screenings from 8 to 11:30 a.m. and 1 to 4:30 pm. Monday through Friday. For information on COVID-19, please visit the website at: https://wellness.nmsu.edu/coronavirus-2019-ncov/

Author: Minerva Baumann – NMSU

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For updates on all news from around Las Cruces, please visit our news partners at Las Cruces Today

NMSU mental health counselor gives advice to cope with COVID-19 pandemic

To curb the spread of COVID-19, public health experts have urged people nationwide to practice social distancing, and many states, including New Mexico, have implemented measures ordering residents to stay at home. Now, as a result, millions are self-isolating and limiting social contact by teleworking or attending school virtually.

But prolonged social isolation can have adverse effects on mental health, especially for people already grappling with mental conditions like depression and anxiety, said New Mexico State University counselor Louie Atencio, who works for the Aggie Health and Wellness Center’s Employee Assistance Program, a confidential counseling and referral service for NMSU faculty and staff.

“When we’re talking about the heightened aspects of mental health issues during this time, we’re talking about a specific part of the population that often struggles with depression, anxiety and bipolar disorder,” Atencio said. “They already feel to a certain extent that they’re isolated from the rest of the community because some people often have a difficult time understanding mental health issues.”

According to a recent poll from the Kaiser Family Foundation, 45 percent of adults nationwide said the COVID-19 pandemic has affected their mental health, with 19 percent saying it has had a “major impact.”

Atencio said it’s normal for people to experience elevated levels of stress and anxiety during this challenging time. But people with a diagnosed condition, he noted, may feel further isolated as a result of restrictive measures limiting social interactions.

“That’s one of the big concerns,” he said.

For some people struggling with the symptoms of depression or anxiety – such as feeling nervous, restless or tense, or having a sense of panic, danger or doom – relaxation exercises can help them cope, Atencio said. Since most people are isolating at home, he recommends searching for some relaxation videos and techniques from online sources like YouTube. Many of these web-based resources are free, and some include useful how-to videos, such as how to use mindfulness or self-compassion exercises to deal with their anxiety, he said.

“I have recommended to my clients in my private practice and students here, as well as employees, that they might consider going online and searching for some self-help videos on YouTube on how to utilize basic relaxation exercises,” he said.

Atencio encourages those without computer or internet access to contact the National Alliance on Mental Health at 800-950-NAMI or the Doña Ana County chapter at 510-770-6264. He noted that NAMI’s hotline offers a free peer-support helpline that provides information, resource referrals and support to people living with mental health conditions.

At NMSU, Atencio said, the Aggie Health and Wellness Center has a daily on-call counselor available to assist NMSU students and employees in crisis situations from 8 to 11:30 a.m. and 1 to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. Last month, the center transitioned into telehealth services to reduce the risk of COVID-19 exposure. Atencio and other counselors from the center are now speaking with patients by phone and through Zoom, he said.

NMSU students or employees who need to speak with the center’s on-call counselor should call 575-646-1512. For after-hours assistance, they can visit this website for a list of resources available in Las Cruces and New Mexico.

Creative visualization exercises also can help people manage their anxiety, Atencio said. For example, he practices an exercise that involves a person visualizing a safe place – either real or imaginary – while taking a series of deep breaths.

“I ask them hold their breath at least four times for as long as they can, then slowly release it, and repeat this at least four times,” he said. “At that point, they may be able to visualize your safe place, and they can say to themselves, ‘When I’m in my safe place, I can be safe.'”

He also tells patients to gently rub the side of their cheek with their index finger when they find their safe place while doing this exercise, he said. This will help patients when they experience anxiety in public settings, he added.

“By doing this,” he said, “it could potentially help them reconnect with their safe place when they’re out in public and begin to feel anxious. What they want to do is gently rub their cheek to reconnect with their safe place; however, this does require practice.”

To learn more about this exercise, Atencio suggests searching for “Create Your Safe Place” or “Guided Meditation to Find Your Safe Place” on YouTube.

Some people may not experience heightened stress, depression, anxiety or other mental health issues during their self-isolation, but they can help others who are having a difficult time.

“I would encourage these people who are fortunate enough not to be struggling with these mental health symptoms to consider becoming a mentor for their friends,” Atencio said, “and reach out to their friends that they know are struggling or have struggled in the past with these symptoms, and let them know that they’re there for them.”

He said making a simple phone call to someone in distress can have a very positive impact.

“Just being able to hear someone else’s voice on the other end of the phone can often make a huge difference,” he said. “It lets you know that you are still connected to someone.”

Just as important as helping others, Atencio said, is remembering that the current crisis is temporary. “Ultimately, as a species, we are survivors. We are people who meet challenges. And this, by all means, is a huge challenge,” he said. “But as long as we have faith in each other and our higher powers, we should be able to come through this time.”

For more information about counseling services at the Aggie Health and Wellness Center, click here.

Author: Carlos Andres Lopez – NMSU

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For updates on all news from around Las Cruces, please visit our news partners at Las Cruces Today

NMSU Facilities and Services crews work to safeguard the health of campus community

In the fight against the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, the most important thing most of us can do is to stay home, follow guidance on social distancing and hand-washing, and wait for the worst of the outbreak to subside. But for many essential members of the workforce, this is the time when their expertise and hard work are most needed, and it’s not work they can accomplish from the safety of a home office.

The 120-person crew of New Mexico State University’s Office of Facilities and Services has been working hard – even before most non-essential campus workers and many students throughout the NMSU system were directed to work and learn online for the duration of the crisis – to ensure that campus is a safe, healthy environment when they return.

“With the COVID-19 outbreak, our department is responsible for sanitizing and disinfecting all of our spaces here at New Mexico State University,” said Art Lucero, custodial, solid waste and recycling manager for Facilities and Services.

NMSU’s Las Cruces campus has 136 buildings, totaling about 5,000,000 square feet of space that must be carefully disinfected and then closed off until employees and students are able to safely return. In coordination with deans, department heads, researchers and staff, cleaning teams are working to sanitize entire buildings at a time.

“We’re going through each building, all the classrooms, the computer labs – restrooms, naturally,” he said. “You name it, we’re disinfecting it.”

Facilities and Services crew members have two processes for disinfecting buildings – a manual process in which they apply disinfectant

Once New Mexico State University Facilities and Services crews are finished with the disinfection process for each room on campus, they apply dated labels across the doorframe to indicated that the room or building is sanitized and closed. (NMSU photo by Justin Bannister)

and leave it in place for 10 minutes before wiping it off, and an EMist system that mists electrostatically charged disinfectant onto surfaces.

“So that means when the droplet hits a surface, it actually wraps around it, similar to powder-coating,” Lucero explained.

The EMist system allows a small, rotating crew of facilities staff to apply hospital-grade disinfectant on up to 54,000 square feet per hour. Once they’re finished with the disinfection process for each room, the crew applies dated labels across the doorframe to indicated that the room or building is sanitized and closed.

“When you walk up to the door, you’ll see that the building has been disinfected,” Lucero said.

Throughout the process, the workers are careful to protect their own health by wearing personal protective equipment, practicing social distancing and staggering their schedules to minimize human contact. Six different two-person teams rotate through shifts on alternate days, and begin the process each day at 4 a.m.

“Every day, I’m hearing about how members of our university community across the entire NMSU system are doing incredible, heroic work,” said NMSU system Chancellor Dan Arvizu. “These Facilities and Services workers are on the front lines of NMSU’s fight to minimize the impact of this virus on our Aggie community, and I’m truly grateful for their dedication.”

Lucero said each person on his team is aware of the seriousness and importance of this work.

“Our saying here in our in our world is, ‘We clean for health as well as appearance,'” Lucero said. “We care deeply about human health, and what we’re doing here is actually protecting all of us and keeping us safe and healthy.”

For the latest updates on the NMSU system’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, click here.

Authors: Amanda Bradford and Justin Bannister – NMSU

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For updates on all news from around Las Cruces, please visit our news partners at Las Cruces Today

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