New Mexico shuts down some COVID-19 PCR testing sites, but community health advocates press state to keep them (2023)

New Mexico shuts down some COVID-19 PCR testing sites, but community health advocates press state to keep them (1)

This story was the firstpublished by Source New Mexico.

New Mexico is preparing to stop offering readily available, community-wide, free COVID diagnostic tests, which community health advocates fear may impact New Mexicans' ability to obtain treatment.

KUNMreportsTherapeutic PCR testing sites across the state and country will close at the end of December, ending reliable access to fast and accurate test results and treatment options.

Six days later, government officialsannouncedon Thursday, "the state will only provide free home tests in the future" and will work with local governments to distribute 1 million free home tests from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The disappearance of free PCR tests means many New Mexico residents will have to take advantage of free home tests and delay care to just wait. They wait for the exact result, they wait for the prescription, and then they wait for that prescription to be filled.

Experts have pointed out that a PCR test is the best way to find out if you have COVID if you develop symptoms or come into contact with someone who has tested positive.

The PCR test takes cell particles inside the SARS-CoV-2 virus and multiplies the sample to the point where a technician can tell what was in the sample, said Rafael Rubio, president of Albuquerque-based medical technology company NetMedical.

"So if you have a small virus particle. It can multiply to the point where it's like, 'Hey, this thing that's growing inside of you right now is SARS-CoV-2,' Rubio said.

(Video) ITPC Virtual Roundtable on Testing, Community Monitoring and Pricing during COVID-19

It is from this process that the test gets its name: reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (PCR).

PCR tests detect it earlier in post-exposure infection than the less sensitive rapid antigen test, Dr. Albert Ko, Raj and Indra Nooyi Professor of Public Health at the Yale School of Public Health,he saidCNN.

But on Thursday, New Mexico's acting secretary of health, Dr. David Scrase that he does not consider PCR testing to be a necessary tool.

New Mexico shuts down some COVID-19 PCR testing sites, but community health advocates press state to keep them (2)

Scratch card presenteddaneshows that two or three home tests should be done to get the most accurate result, and these home tests are most accurate three days after the onset of symptoms.

FDArecommendrapid tests at least 48 hours apart.

Paxlovid should be takenwithin five daysfor symptoms to reduce the risk of COVID hospitalization and reduce the risk of developingJust Covid.

"You're talking about a five-day window to do what PCR could do in one test," Rael said. "If the FDA says you have three tests in five days, then you really could miss your Paxlovid prescription window."

But Scrase said it would not affect New Mexicans' ability to receive Paxlovid treatment in a timely manner. He said having a test that is 10% more accurate but 10 times harder to perform is no better than a less accurate test that gives results in 15 minutes.

(Video) News Conference: New Mexico health leaders update COVID-19 trends 01-05-2022

Scrase said most of his patients go through the entire process "in a day or two at the most."

"I don't think we're unnecessarily introducing a massive delay that will delay care," Scrase said. "Actually, I think we're set for success because of the wide range of opportunities and access to home testing for just about everyone, as opposed to having to travel and transport or have someone get to the site to get a PCR test."

Curative offered two-hour PCR and one-day PCR, said Roberta Rael, director and founder of Generation Justice.

"The people I work with keep saying that they keep doing the antigen test and it doesn't pass, but they are very sick, they have all the symptoms," Rael said. "They won't get Paxlovid if they need it."

There is also a concern that people don't know how to get a good sample with a home test. If you don't get a good sample, you won't get a good test result, Rael said.

New Mexico shuts down some COVID-19 PCR testing sites, but community health advocates press state to keep them (3)

"There is less and less education and all the different tests I have at home and buy for people have different instructions," Rael said.

Scrase said people should read the instructions carefully to determine if the test requires one or two nostrils to be brushed and how deep to insert the cotton swab into the nose. To get a proper sample with a home test, "you have to be uncomfortable," Scrase said.

Petition for the continuation of PCR

After northern New Mexico resident Luis Peña started asking where he could get his kids tested for COVID, he startedPetitionto state health officials asking them to extend security measures to an under-protected area.

(Video) COVID-19: State Efforts on Testing and Contact Tracing

That said, this is the absolute worst time to remove the test layer.

"Don't take it in the middle of flu season," he said. "I know they'll take it eventually, it's just a matter of time, but the thing is, don't do it now and don't do it under the guise of vacation when everyone is going into vacation mode and their guards are down."

Rael asked Scrase if there was another option for PCR testing that the public should know about and that he could send his loved ones when they needed them.

Scrase said most hospitals in New Mexico offer PCR testing and told the public to ask local labs like TriCore Reference Labs, Southwest Laboratories or SED Medical Laboratories.

Peña admitted that he can still perform a PCR test in an emergency room or hospital, but the difference is that healing sites have social distancing and in some cases they are outdoors.

New Mexico shuts down some COVID-19 PCR testing sites, but community health advocates press state to keep them (4)

"Unlike, you know, I have to go to the ER or urgent care and there are loads of people there, man, I could get COVID just to get tested," he said.

Marquel Musgrave (Nambé) is a COVID Helpdesk Specialist at the National Indigenous Women Resource Center. They rely heavily on data to support and communicate with tribal communities across the US about the effects and reality of COVID.

"When we remove testing tools, it not only affects the COVID count, but it removes data that is crucial for us to assess risk and inform the public about the level of risk," they said.

(Video) CBC News: The National | Mexico resort shooting, Pandemic projections, Roberta Bondar

Musgrave is calling on New Mexicans to support the petition, promote access tools such as New Mexico PCR testing, and support the collective health of their communities right now, especially as all but one of the state's counties are experiencingtallinfect.

Let's use the tools we have

Musgrave said that everyone either knows someone or has someone at home who has been sick with the flu, COVID or RSV, or several at once.

“We still don't have a mask mandate even though the CDC doesrecommendedmasking with this level of transmission and we are hit with incredibly severe cases of RSV,” they said.

They said that young people did so much to protect older people at the beginning of the pandemic, and now it's themmost affected.

"They really did so much for their grandparents and those they were close to and now we have to support them because they are the most affected right now," Musgrave said. “How do we protect our children? What policies do we have to restrict transmission? What tools do we have? Let's use them."

More health news:

  • The power of promoters in the fight against COVID-19
  • "We're still taking it a lot": The lasting effects of COVID from a funeral director
  • Wash your hands: autumn and winter viruses active in the Rio Grande region

Austin Fisher is a news reportersource New Mexico.


Are COVID tests free in New Mexico? ›

This 'at-home' testing option is offered at no cost from the State of new Mexico – you will not be asked for your credit card information.

Can COVID PCR be false negative? ›

But there's an increased chance of false-negative results — meaning it's possible to be infected with the virus but have a negative result. Depending on the situation, the health care provider may recommend a RT-PCR test to confirm a negative antigen test result.

How long does COVID stay in your PCR test? ›

Some people can test positive for COVID-19 for weeks or even months on PCR tests, but there is good news: people are not likely to be contagious for that long from a single infection, even if they test positive, and therefore are unlikely to transmit the virus to others.

What does a positive at home COVID test look like? ›

Positive Result

If a test line (T) is visible together with a control line (C), this means that the result is positive. Look carefully at the result: The test should be considered positive if two lines are visible - even if they are faint. A positive test result means it is very likely that you have COVID‑19.

What is the cost of a Covid test in Mexico? ›

Both are acceptable for return flights to the United States though PCR testing is more accurate. Antigen testing is $50 for the at home kit and includes video observation services. Antigen testing in Mexico starts at $44 USD + VAT or $99 + VAT for concierge services.

Does Mexico charge for COVID test? ›

The cost of rapid antigen testing is $59 USD + VAT tax ($99 USD + VAT tax for concierge). The cost of PCR testing is $125 USD + VAT tax ($179 USD + VAT tax for concierge). Schedule an appointment for each person who needs a test. Make your appointment in time to meet the testing requirements for your destination.

How accurate is a PCR test? ›

Is PCR Testing Accurate? Yes, PCR test results are generally considered to be accurate. While rapid antigen tests commonly produce false negatives and false positives—especially when a COVID-19 infection is still in its early stages—these issues are much less likely to occur with PCR tests.

What is the accuracy rate of the Covid PCR test? ›

Different values of the sensitivity of RT-PCR tests to COVID-19 have been reported in different parts of the globe. According to one analysis with 51 people in China, up to 29% of people with the coronavirus tested negative. Studies in the US returned multiple values – sometimes it was 95%, sometimes 85%, and even 75%.

Can you test negative for Covid and still be contagious? ›

You may need to get tested even if you do not have symptoms. You can have COVID-19 and spread it to others even if you do not have symptoms. Your COVID-19 test can be negative even if you are infected. Most people do not test positive for the virus until days after exposure.

Am I still contagious after 7 days of Covid? ›

You are most infectious (or contagious) in the first 5 days after your symptoms start. You can also spread COVID-19 in the 48 hours before your symptoms start. If you never have symptoms, consider yourself most infectious in the 5 days after you test positive.

Are you still contagious after 10 days of Covid? ›

Those with severe COVID-19 may remain infectious beyond 10 days and may need to extend isolation for up to 20 days. People who are moderately or severely immunocompromised should isolate through at least day 20.

How long will I keep testing positive for Covid? ›

After a positive test result, you may continue to test positive for some time. Some tests, especially PCR tests, may continue to show a positive result for up to 90 days.

What does a black line on a Covid test mean? ›

At-home rapid antigen tests are widely available and can be a quick way to find out if you have COVID-19. If you get a quick, dark line on your COVID test, it's a pretty clear indicator that you're positive.

Is a faint line a positive Covid? ›

The bottom line can be very faint. Any pink/purple line visible here indicates a positive result.

What does C and T stand for on Covid test? ›

◀ Positive result. If the Control line (C) and the Test line (T) are visible, the test is positive. Any faint visible colored test (T) line with the control line (C) should be read as positive. You do not need to perform repeat testing if you have a positive result at any time.

Is it safe to go to Mexico right now? ›

Generally speaking, Mexico is a safe destination if visitors use common sense and educate themselves about the particular region of the country they are visiting. Due to crime, several regions of Mexico are subject to elevated travel advisories.

Do I need to complete any forms to enter Mexico? ›

Stays less than 72 hours within the border area, do not require an Official Entry Immigration Form (FMM). U.S. citizens who travel as tourists beyond the “border zone” or enter by air must fill out an Official Entry Immigration Form (FMM), which is provided by commercial airlines or at the Mexican airport of entry.

What documents do I need to travel to Mexico? ›

U.S. citizens must present a valid U.S. passport book or card, in addition to an entry permit (Forma Migratoria Multiple or FMM) issued by Instituto Nacional de Migración (INM). Travelers should be sure to enter Mexico with valid proof of automobile registration, even if remaining in the border zone.

What is the difference between PCR and antigen test? ›

Molecular tests, such as polymerase chain reaction (PCR) and other nucleic acid amplification tests (NAATs) tests, which detect genetic material called RNA from the virus. Antigen tests, often referred to as rapid tests or, for some, at-home or self tests, which detect proteins called antigens from the virus.

What is PCR test stand for? ›

You may know the term “PCR” in reference to COVID-19. However, PCR tests are not only used for COVID-19 testing. Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) in science was first developed in 1993. It received the Nobel Prize in chemistry. Since then, it's become the so-called “gold standard” for diagnostic testing.

How long does COVID last? ›

Most people who test positive with any variant of COVID-19 typically experience some symptoms for a couple weeks. People who have long COVID-19 symptoms can experience health problems for four or more weeks after first being infected, according to the CDC.

Can a negative Covid test turn positive after sitting? ›

Unfortunately, yes—it is possible.

Can you have Covid symptoms despite negative PCR? ›

Antibodies and other viruses

Keep in mind that if a person tests negative for COVID-19 but still exhibits symptoms, they may have another virus like the flu or a respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), which a COVID-19 test would not pick up.

What over the counter medicine is good for COVID? ›

You can treat symptoms with over-the-counter medicines, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil), to help you feel better.

Is a rapid PCR the same as a PCR? ›

The main difference between rapid PCR testing and traditional PCR testing is the time it takes to get results. Rapid PCR tests can provide results in as little as 1-2 hours, while traditional PCR tests can take up to 3 days.

What is the difference between PCR and RT-PCR? ›

The main difference between RT-PCR and rapid PCR is the type of molecule that is being amplified. RT-PCR amplifies the RNA, whereas rapid PCR amplifies the DNA.

What is the difference between rapid PCR and rapid antigen? ›

Both standard and rapid PCR tests work by looking for genetic material from the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Antigen tests, on the other hand, look for specific proteins on the surface of the cell. This is what makes PCR tests more accurate than antigen tests.

When are you most contagious with Covid? ›

People are thought to be most contagious early in the course of their illness. With Omicron, most transmission appears to occur during the one to two days before onset of symptoms, and in the two to three days afterwards. People with no symptoms can also spread the coronavirus to others.

Am I still contagious if I have a cough? ›

You are contagious for the entire period of time symptoms are present, all the way until they disappear. Keep in mind, however, when your symptoms are at their worst—generally the first two to three days—you are at your most infectious. Vaccine available? Currently, there's no vaccine for the common cold.

Why am i still coughing after COVID? ›

Some infections can leave you with a dry cough because your lungs have been irritated. This should slowly disappear during the course of your recovery. It's not clear how long after coronavirus (COVID-19) you may have a cough and it can be frustrating at times.

How long are you immune after COVID? ›

Once you have had COVID-19, your immune system responds in several ways. This immune response can protect you against another infection for several months, but this protection decreases over time. People with weakened immune systems who get an infection may have a limited immune response or none at all.

Am I contagious if I don't have a fever? ›

While you may not see any symptoms, you may still be contagious. Understanding your infection and its contagious period will help you and others stay healthy.

How long are you contagious with mono? ›

Once your symptoms do appear, they may last for two to four weeks. You can pass the virus to other people through your saliva for up to three months after your symptoms subside. Some studies have reported that you may still be contagious for up to 18 months.

Can you get COVID if someone in your house has it? ›

Because coronavirus is transmitted through close contact with someone who is infected, it's common for the virus to spread within homes.

How long does the cough last with COVID? ›

If your cough is ongoing after 4 weeks, it is important to contact your GP or primary care team in case there is another cause for your cough.

When does COVID get worse? ›

A person may have mild symptoms for about one week, then worsen rapidly. Let your doctor know if your symptoms quickly worsen over a short period of time.

When should you retest again after testing positive for Covid? ›

It depends on how long ago you tested positive and whether or not you have symptoms. According to the CDC, you should be retested if: You tested positive for COVID within 30 days and have COVID symptoms. You tested positive for COVID within 31 to 90 days and have COVID symptoms.

What if the line is faint on a COVID test after 30 minutes? ›

Do not read your results until 30 minutes. If the test device is left to develop longer you may receive a false positive result and you will need to repeat the test. This indicates the test is negative. Two lines – even faint lines – indicate the test is positive.

What does a positive rapid COVID test look like? ›


A colored line should always appear in the Control (C) region and another line should be in the Test (T) region. A positive result indicates detection of SARS-CoV-2 antigens in the sample.

Can a rapid Covid test turn positive after 30 minutes? ›

Read the test result after 15 to 30 minutes. Results may be incorrect after 30 minutes. In a positive result, a coloured line will also appear in the lower section of the result window. This is the test line (T).

How reliable are rapid COVID tests? ›

For rapid antigen tests, this includes a clinical sensitivity of at least 80% (for specimens collected within 7 days of symptom onset) and a clinical specificity of at least 98%.

Can a positive at home Covid test be a false positive? ›

If you get a positive result, it's a pretty sure sign you're infected, though false positives do happen.

How much is a COVID test in MN? ›

COVID-19 testing is no-cost in Minnesota for everyone who lives in the state. The State of Minnesota has made no-cost saliva and rapid testing available to everyone through a number of testing options, such as community testing sites. Many healthcare providers and pharmacies also offer no-cost testing.

What is the purpose of Paxlovid? ›

What is Paxlovid? Paxlovid (ritonavir-boosted nirmatrelvir) is a preferred oral antiviral authorized for the treatment of mild-moderate COVID-19 illness. Patients take a combination of pills twice a day for 5 days.

How accurate are rapid COVID tests? ›

In people with confirmed COVID-19, antigen tests correctly identified COVID-19 infection in an average of 73% of people with symptoms, compared to 55% of people without symptoms. Tests were most accurate when used in the first week after symptoms began (an average of 82% of confirmed cases had positive antigen tests).

When to get a PCR test? ›

If you have symptoms, test immediately.

If you are only going to take a single test, a PCR test will provide a more reliable negative test result. If you use an antigen test, a positive result is reliable, but a negative test is not always accurate.

Am I still contagious if I test negative? ›

You can have COVID-19 and spread it to others even if you do not have symptoms. Your COVID-19 test can be negative even if you are infected. Most people do not test positive for the virus until days after exposure. You may also be exposed to the virus afteryou are tested and then get infected.

When are you no longer contagious with Covid? ›

People with moderate or severe COVID-19 should isolate through at least day 10. Those with severe COVID-19 may remain infectious beyond 10 days and may need to extend isolation for up to 20 days.

What medicine is good for Covid cough? ›

Use medications containing guaifenesin, such as Robitussin, Mucinex, and Vicks 44E. keeping you from getting rest. Coughing is useful because it brings up mucus from the lungs and helps prevent bacterial infections.

Is Paxlovid worth it? ›

Paxlovid is the first-choice treatment for mild to moderate COVID in people with a higher risk of severe illness. In initial clinical studies, it was about 90% effective at preventing COVID-related hospitalization and death.

What is the anti viral medication for Covid? ›

Treat COVID‑19 from the comfort of your home.

One oral antiviral is called Paxlovid, and the other is called Lagevrio (also known as molnupiravir).


1. Supporting Your Perinatal Units During COVID-19: Health Equity for California Latinx Communities
(California Maternal Quality Care Collaborative)
2. COVID-19 and Latinx Voices in the Field | Prioritizing Equity
(American Medical Association (AMA))
3. COVID-19 Testing and Vaccine Distribution for African American Communities
(ABA Section of Civil Rights and Social Justice)
4. Community Conversations How HIV Testers are Adapting to COVID-19
(INSTI by bioLytical Laboratories)
5. Releasing People who are High Utilizers During the #COVID19 Pandemic [WEBINAR]
(CSG Justice Center)
6. Gov. Gavin Newsom has an update on the virus’ spread and the state’s response.


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