During an emergency city council meeting on Thursday, Socorro mayor Ravi Bhasker announced that the New Mexico Department of Health sent him a letter saying that PAE will continue to operate out of Days Inn. Bhasker said in a phone interview that PAE will be in Socorro for three weeks, which started on Nov. 23.
In the letter, Jason Cornwell, Acting Deputy Cabinet Secretary, said that the NMDOH fully supports the efforts by Navajo Nation and PAE to secure a shelter in Socorro.
“NMDOH strongly believes in the effectiveness of non-congregate community sheltering as an effective and important piece of a coordinated response to the COVID-19 pandemic,” Cornwell wrote.
According to the letter, NMDOH issued a Public Health order in May “authorizing and promoting” the use of shelters and that there are currently 11 noncongregrate operations in 11 counties in New Mexico. The order was extended on Oct. 25.
During the emergency meeting, Bhasker said that his administration will “stand down” because it is a state order which he cannot go against. Bhasker also mentioned how four months ago he was approached about using his hotels as a shelter and turned it down due to community risk.
The mayor spent the majority of the meeting discussing the situation around Days Inn and the matter in which PAE arrived in Socorro.
“I have respect for Alamo and people have respect for me,” Bhasker said in the meeting. “This has nothing to do with Alamo or Socorro. It has to do with how the Navajo Nation and PAE proceed to do with what they did. It has nothing to do with our thinking about our Alamo neighbors.”
In response to a public comment, Bhasker said that if PAE came to him before to talk about setting up a non-congregate shelter, he would have recommended they used the Gazelle Stay which used to be a hotel on the outskirts of Socorro.
“If you look at the specifics of quarantining and you do some research, they really think these quarantine hotels should be at the end of the city, not in the middle of a city,” he said during the meeting.
One of the major concerns community members brought up was whether or not the quarantined patients could leave Days Inn. Bhasker said the patients have to sign a waiver but can leave and go back to Alamo when they would like to. PAE has since set up a fence around Days Inn along with a guard station to help ensure the patients do not leave the property.
On Friday, Bhasker met on Zoom with PAE, members of Alamo and Navajo Nation, administration from the Socorro General Hospital and others.
“What we worked out with them is that they would be in constant communication with us if anybody that was COVIDpositive, who was in the hotel, wanted to leave and just left without (PAE) transporting them back to where they came from,” Bhasker said in a phone interview.
Bhasker said he does not have authority to handle any COVID positive patients who leave Days Inn and go out into Socorro. Bhasker gave PAE the names and contact info of police officers and the police chief in case a situation does come up.
At Days Inn, the patients will have nurses on-site along with access to TeleMed. Besides using Days Inn, PAE will have access to city resources including the hospital.
“If they have somebody who is in trouble and many times somebody who has COVID-19 do decompensate,” Bhasker said in a phone interview. “They do have staff on site to decide how bad they are. They have vehicles to transport to another facility outside of the city.”
If a patient is in need of an ambulance or helicopter transportation, PAE can utilize those city resources. Bhasker mentioned how during the Zoom meeting Veronica Pound, Socorro General Hospital administrator, said that the hospital is not equipped to take care of patients who are in bad condition.
“At this point, the hospital is quite full,” Bhasker said in a phone interview. “It would put a strain on us to have people that are quite ill.”
El Defensor Chieftain reached out to PAE who declined to comment.