Letters to the Editor, April 2, 2020
Prioritize EMS workers
Across the country, in large urban areas as well as small rural communities, EMTs and paramedics are serving on the frontlines of our nation's war against the COVID-19 pandemic, oftentimes without the necessary supplies and equipment to ensure the safety of their patients and themselves.
Emergency medical services (EMS) are responding to increasing calls from patients with suspected or positively diagnosed coronavirus, in addition to 911 calls for patients with severe injuries and illness, including cardiac arrests and strokes.
All EMS systems, whether they are public, private or a combination of both, are struggling. The additional burdens placed upon our EMS systems and personnel are challenging even for the strongest systems.
Lack of medical supplies, particularly Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), including face masks, gloves, goggles and gowns; ventilators, and other essential medical supplies and medications, is endangering our EMTs and paramedics, their families and colleagues, and their patients.
EMS personnel are having to utilize improvised or recycled PPE. A growing number of EMTs and paramedics are being infected with the COVID-19 virus, removing their ability to answer 911 calls. Some are fighting for their lives on respirators.
According to an on-line tracking system developed by the International Association of Fire Chiefs, as of March 26, there have been 6,229 EMS and fire personnel exposed to the coronavirus, 1,835 have been quarantined and 113 have become infected with the illness. While some states have implemented priority testing for their EMS personnel, many have yet to enact this testing. The U.S. Public Health Service has given EMS personnel testing its lowest priority.
We appreciate the efforts of Congress and the Administration to support states as they respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, and thank them for passing crucial relief and stimulus bills in the last couple of weeks. However, these legislative packages do not provide direct funding relief or protection to our nation's EMTs and paramedics.
Funds to support the pandemic response are being provided to state government and/or hospitals, which do not trickle down to EMS. EMS agencies receive little to no funding from programs such as the FEMA Disaster Relief Fund and the Assistance to Firefighter Grants. EMS agencies are not receiving funds or supplies for their EMS personnel. In some communities, EMS is on the brink of collapse.
For EMS to sustain its services and protect its personnel, the following actions need to be taken immediately by federal leaders:
♦ Give priority to testing for EMS Personnel and their families.
♦ Give priority access to PPE for EMS personnel.
♦ Give priority access to EMS agencies for vital prehospital medications.
♦ Reimburse all EMS agencies for overtime wages paid to employees and additional costs necessary to provide emergency medical services during the public health pandemic.
♦ Reimburse EMTs and paramedics for the cost of daycare for EMS personnel with children.
♦ Provide direct funding to all EMS agencies for ventilators and other needed medical equipment.
♦ Provide direct funding to EMS to purchase ambulances.
♦ Allow use of the A0998 HCPCS code for EMS to respond and transport patients to the appropriate healthcare facility, not necessarily the hospital, freeing up hospital beds.
♦ Ensure all EMS personnel are covered in all applicable COVID-19 provisions by specifically including Emergency Medical Services Providers and Personnel.
Good luck with that
In his Open Letter (Daily Times - Thursday, March 26, 2020) Rep. Rod Montoya urges on behalf of House Republicans for a special legislative session to address the economic consequences of COVID-19.
Rep. Montoya argues that the state and local governments’ and business’s situations are dire, requiring immediate action. He suggests this could best be done by convening a bare quorum of legislators to the capitol for a few hours to address a very limited set of topics.
He urges this action by the Legislature although he doesn’t know how long this will last, what the toll will be on businesses, on state and local governments’ budgets, what aid may be coming from the federal government (the CARES bill hadn’t even been been finalized when he wrote his letter), or how long oil & gas prices will be crushed by the ongoing Saudi/Russian price war.
He doesn’t know these things because no one does.
Clearly not the basis on which to make sound policy decisions. His concluding swipe at the Governor (“it’s time to stop flirting with a run for Vice President”) and reference to the “reckless” increase in spending in the new budget reflect more interest in scoring political points than a serious response to serious problems. Good luck with a session lasting “a few hours” using that approach.
I say if the Lt. Gov. of Texas and Trump believe that the elderly should sacrifice themselves for the good of capitalism, then perhaps they need to lead by example.
Methane rules needed
As an educator, I’ve been thinking more and more about the connection between methane waste and pollution from the oil and gas industry and its impacts on New Mexico students. With state officials listening to Farmington residents this week about the impacts of a proposed state methane rule, I hope they will put our children first and move forward with regulations that protect their health and boost funding for education.
Without rules in place to limit methane, New Mexico’s oil and gas industry has been wasteful. Venting, flaring and leaks of natural gas cost the state more than $43 million in lost royalty and tax revenue. That’s funding that could be used in our classrooms ensuring better outcomes for students.
And methane waste and pollution disproportionately affects the health of our kids. Ozone pollution from methane emissions puts kids at higher risk of asthma and other dangers. According to a recent analysis by the Environmental Defense Fund, “nearly 9,000 children under the age of five live in San Juan County and over 78 percent of these young kids live within one mile of an active oil or gas well.”
For the sake of our kids, New Mexico needs rules this year to cut methane.
Mary Ann Briody
Methane emission problem is real
Family farmers and ranchers are often hit first and hit hardest by oil and gas industry pollution. When we bought our ranch 20 years ago, we dreamed that we would share the land with our grandkids. Now, the oil and gas operations on and adjacent to our land are making it difficult — and sometimes even dangerous — to fulfill that dream.
Unlike some other states, New Mexico has no way to effectively prevent methane waste and associated pollution from escaping. That is hazardous to the physical and financial health of all New Mexicans, and it needs to change.
New Mexico has a methane waste and pollution problem – it’s costing our schools millions in revenue, ruining our air and harming our climate for future generations. Each year, oil and gas companies waste $275 million-worth of natural gas through venting, flaring and leaks which costs the state more than $43 million in royalty and tax revenue that could fund public education.
Methane also is a powerful climate change pollutant responsible for 25 percent of the warming we experience today, and oil and gas operations release ozone-forming pollutants that worsen respiratory diseases such as emphysema and asthma. If action isn’t taken, increasing oil and gas production will lead to even higher pollution levels.
I applaud Governor Lujan Grisham, Secretary Kenney and Secretary Propst for seeking input from Four Corners area residents on the state’s plan to create regulations to reduce methane waste and pollution from the oil and gas industry, and I urge everyone to let your voices be heard about the need for nationally-leading rules that protect our community, our health and our children.
Don and Jane Schreiber
Devil's Spring Ranch
COVID-19 pandemic a life-shaping event
Two commandments guide our corporate lives as Christians: to love God and neighbor, especially our neighbors in need. The member churches of the New Mexico Conference of Churches firmly believe love casts out all fear; we are dedicated to heeding Christ’s call to strive for unity, justice, peace and the integrity of creation as people of faith ministering to bring healing and hope to New Mexico.
As we consider the implications of the medical crisis, we face difficult questions and choices. These are our guiding questions: How will our response be remembered by the next generation of faithful ones responding to the pandemic of their day? Will we be remembered for our love and ministry? Will the fruits of our compassionate service inspire gracious responses in the future?
Regardless what the future brings, this moment is a life-shaping experience for all of us: we may be victims, we may be helpers, we may be both. Because of the presence of COVID-19 in our state, we will be changed.
With a common voice, the leadership of the New Mexico Conference of Churches commends the witness of our member congregations, respects their decisions to adjust corporate life, and prays for our state, our government leaders, all medical professionals, and the vulnerable – the medically fragile, their caregivers, the fearful, those without homes or family support, the isolated and the forgotten. We are committed to loving God and serving neighbors.
Grace and peace accompanied by hope and love,
The Judicatory Heads, New Mexico Conference of Churches
The Rev. Kay E. Huggins, Interim Executive Director
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