After more than a year of wearing face masks, social distancing and working and learning from home, the COVID-19 pandemic is still prevalent in most communities.

More than 500,000 people in the United States have died from complications of COVID-19 — about 100 in Valencia County. More than 28.5 million people have contracted the virus in the United States, with more than 6,465 in Valencia County.

While the numbers are staggering, there is hope for the future with three different vaccines currently being administered nationwide. As more and more people get vaccinated, health officials hope it will help in mitigating the spread of the virus, and a return to a somewhat normal existence.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says COVID-19 is spread mainly through close contact between people who are physically near each other.

“How easily a virus spreads from person to person can vary,” the CDC website says. “When people with COVID-19 cough, sneeze, sing, talk or breathe they produce respiratory droplets. These droplets can range in size from larger droplets (some of which are visible) to smaller droplets. Small droplets can also form particles when they dry very quickly in the airstream.”

The CDC says the most efficient ways to slow the spread is to wear a mask, stay at least 6 feet from others who don’t live with you and avoid crowds. Other suggestions include avoiding poorly ventilated indoor spaces, and washing your hands often with soap and water.

Symptoms and separation

People with COVID-19 have had a wide variety of symptoms, ranging from mild cold-like symptoms to severe illness. Symptoms may appear two to 14 days after exposure to the virus. People with these symptoms may have COVID-19:

• Fever or chills

• Cough

• Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing

• Fatigue

• Muscle or body aches

• Headache

• New loss of taste or smell

• Sore throat

• Congestion or runny nose

• Nausea or vomiting

• Diarrhea

Testing Sites

There are several COVID-19 testing sites in Valencia and Socorro counties, including:

  • Belen Public Health Office

617 Becker Ave, Belen, 87002

Preregister for an event at or call 864-7743, ext. 1101, for assistance

  • Curative at Daniel Fernandez Memorial Park

1103 N.M. 314, Los Lunas, 87031


  • Duke City Urgent Care

311 Los Lentes Road SE, Los Lunas, 87031

To schedule an appointment call 814-1995, or visit

  • Socorro Public Health Office

214 Neel Ave., Socorro, 87801

(575) 835-4760

Appointment required, referral not required, testing for all patients, drive-thru

  • Socorro General Hospital

1202 Highway 60 West, Socorro, 87801

Call hotline at 855-600-3453

Appointment required, referral not required, testing for all patients, drive-thru

  • Bhasker Medical Clinic

200 Neel St, Socorro, 87801

By appointment only

Call 575-835-2940

If you do get sick and are diagnosed with COVID-19, CDC guidelines encourage people to:

• Stay home except to get medical care.

• Isolate yourself from other members of your family to prevent spread to them and the people they have contact with, such as grandparents.

• Get care immediately if you are having emergency warning signs, such as trouble breathing and pain or pressure in chest.

If someone is showing any of these signs, seek emergency medical care immediately:

• Trouble breathing

• Persistent pain or pressure in the chest

• New confusion

• Inability to wake or stay awake

• Pale, gray or blue-colored skin, lips or nail beds, depending on skin tone

If you are sick and feeling the symptoms of COVID-19, the CDC recommends to separate yourself from other people as much as possible. They say to stay in a specific room away from other people and pets in your home.

Remember to inform your close contacts they may have been exposed. An infected person, the CDC says, can spread the virus starting 48 hours before the person has any symptoms or tests positive.

If you are caring for someone sick at home, you can protect yourself and others, medical experts say, including:

• Help the person who is sick follow their doctor’s instructions for care and medicine. For most people, symptoms last a few days, and people usually feel better after a week.

• See if over-the-counter medicines for fever help the person feel better.

• Make sure the person who is sick drinks a lot of fluids and rests.

• Help them with grocery shopping, filling prescriptions and getting other items they may need. Consider having the items delivered through a service, if possible.

• Take care of their pet(s), and limit contact between the person who is sick and their pet(s) when possible.

Who should test

The CDC has guidelines of who should get tested for COVID-19. Of course, people who have symptoms should be tested, and those who have had close contact with someone who has the virus.

COVID-19 Hotline

New Mexicans who want to report symptoms of COVID-19 infection, such as fever, cough, shortness of breath, chills, repeated shaking with chills, muscle pain, headache, sore throat and/or loss of taste or smell should call their health care provider or the NMDOH COVID-19 hotline immediately at 1-855-600-3453.

New Mexicans who have non-health-related questions or concerns can also call 833-551-0518 or visit, which is being updated regularly as a one-stop source for information for families, workers and others affected by and seeking more information about COVID-19.

Close contact means being within 6 feet for a total of 15 minutes or more with someone confirmed COVID-19 positive.

Others who should be tested are those who have taken part in activities that put them at higher risk for COVID-19 because they cannot socially distance as needed, such as travel, attending large social or mass gatherings, or being in crowded indoor settings and people who have been asked or referred to get testing by their health care provider or state ​health department.

Not everyone needs to be tested. The CDC suggests if you do get tested, you should self-quarantine/isolate at home pending test results and follow the advice of your health care provider or a public health professional.

Those at risk

Some people are more likely than others to become severely ill if and when they contract COVID-19. The risk for severe illness with COVID-19 increases with age, with older adults at highest risk. According to the CDC, eight out of 10 COVID-19 deaths reported in the U.S. have been adults 65 years old and older.

Other factors can also increase your risk for severe illness, such as having certain underlying medical conditions. If you have an underlying medical condition, you should continue to follow your treatment plan:

• Continue your medications and do not change your treatment plan without talking to your health care provider.

• Have at least a 30-day supply of prescription and non-prescription medicines. Talk to a health care provider, insurer and pharmacist about getting an extra supply (i.e., more than 30 days) of prescription medicines, if possible, to reduce your trips to the pharmacy.

• Do not delay getting emergency medical care because of COVID-19. Emergency departments have contingency infection prevention plans to protect you from getting COVID-19 if you need care.

• Call your health care provider if you have any concerns about your underlying medical conditions or if you get sick and think that you may have COVID-19. If you need emergency help, call 911 right away.

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The New Mexico Department of Health is leading the state’s COVID-19 vaccination planning and implementation in close collaboration with other state agencies, as well as public, private and tribal partners throughout the state.

Doctors say it’s vital that Americans get vaccinated when it’s their turn, and continue to take precautions against infection.

While the roll-out of the vaccine is encouraging, doctors say we’re not out of the woods yet. Continuing to practice COVID-19 safety measures and getting vaccinated as soon as it’s your turn will help protect you and your loved ones from illness.

The three vaccines that have received approval in the United States were developed by Pfizer-BioNtech, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson.

The CDC says all three vaccines are extremely effective against COVID-19. The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines require two doses, while the Johnson & Johnson vaccine requires one dose.

To register online for a COVID-19 vaccine, visit Users will be asked to create a profile, and will be asked a number of questions, including employment information and listing of chronic medical conditions.

Users who have questions or would like support with the registration process, including New Mexicans who do not have internet access, can dial 1-855-600-3453, press option 0 for vaccine questions, and then option 4 for tech support.

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Julia M. Dendinger began working at the VCNB in 2006. She covers Valencia County government, Belen Consolidated Schools and the village of Bosque Farms. She is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists Rio Grande chapter’s board of directors.