COVID-19 continued its presence at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant last month and in early May but infections appeared to be slowing with less than five reported weekly since the start of April.
Six cases of COVID-19 were reported at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant throughout the entire month of April, with two reported so far in May, records show.
The latest report from Nuclear Waste Partnership (NWP) – the primary operations contractor at WIPP – showed two cases between May 6 and 13, bringing the nuclear waste repository’s total caseload to 275 infections since the pandemic first struck New Mexico in March 2020.
On April 2, NWP reported three positive cases, with one positive on April 9, two cases on April 16 no cases reported the following week on April 23.
Another infection was reported on April 30.
NWP spokesman Donavan Mager pointed to a decline in COVID-19 cases at WIPP, which officials said was consistent with a decreasing caseload in southeast New Mexico where WIPP is located near the border of Eddy and Lea counties.
“WIPP has only had a few active cases at any given time since early March,” Mager said. “The Department of Energy and Nuclear Waste Partnership continue to work with all employees to ensure Department of Health and (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) guidelines are followed.”
During the height of the pandemic last fall and winter, WIPP was reporting double-digit weekly case counts as the virus spread throughout the surrounding local communities.
But those numbers appeared to be on a downward trend as well, with Eddy County reporting seven new cases on Wednesday and Lea County reporting one case, per the New Mexico Department of Health.
The recent report followed zero cases in Eddy County on Tuesday and two in Lea County.
Eddy County had 6,843 total cases as of Wednesday and Lea had 8,286.
There were three deaths reported Wednesday: a woman in her 80s from Dona Ana County, and a woman in her 60s and man in his 80s from San Juan County.
Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham recently began relaxing COVID-19 restrictions by county, based on laxer gating criteria and vaccine rates.
That meant both Eddy and Lea counties were designated as “turquoise,” equating to the lightest restrictions on businesses and public gatherings.
When New Mexico as a state reaches a 60 percent vaccination rate, the State planned to lift all COVID-19 restrictions throughout the state.
“New Mexicans should continue to get vaccinated at the very first opportunity,” said Health Secretary Tracie Collins. “Not only will it hasten the end of the worst of the pandemic, it will enhance counties’ and communities’ ability to safely begin more and more commercial and day-to-day activities without endangering public health.”
Past COVID-19 cases at WIPP
- March 26 – Three employees reported positive COVID-19 cases
- March 18 to 24 – One employee tested positive for the virus
- March 11 to 17 – Two workers were reported infected.
- March 4 to March 10 – One worker reported being infected with the virus.
- Feb. 25 to March 3 – One worker was reported infected, last at the site on Feb. 23.
- Feb. 18 to 24 – Two workers were infected, last at the site between Feb. 16 and 24.
- Feb. 11 to 17 – Two workers reported positive test results, last at the site between Feb. 4 and 8.
- Feb. 4 to 10 – Three WIPP were reported infected, last at the site from Jan. 27 to Feb. 8.
- Jan. 28 to Feb. 3 – Six WIPP workers were reported infected, last at the site from Jan. 18 to 28.
- Jan. 20 to 27 – Six workers with NWP were reportedly infected, last at the site from Jan. 11 to 20.
- Jan. 13 to 19 – 14 workers reported positive, last at the site between Dec. 3 and Jan. 17.
- Jan. 6 to 12 – 25 workers tested positive: 23 from NWP, one subcontractor and one from the CBFO, last at the site between March 24 and Jan. 6.
- Dec. 29 to Jan. 5 – 15 cases: 10 NWP, three subcontractors, one at CBFO and one at a CBFO subcontractor, last at the site between March 24 and Dec. 28.
- Dec. 22 and 28 – Six positives reported, all NWP employees last at site between Dec. 3 and 18.
- Dec. 16 to 21 – Nine positives reported, seven NWP employees and two from subcontractors, last at the site between Dec. 9 and Dec. 16.
- Dec. 9 to 15 – Seven positives report, six at NWP and one subcontractor last at the site between Nov. 24 and Dec. 9.
- Dec. 2 to Dec. 8 – 16 cases reported, 12 NWP, three subcontractor employees and one from the CBFO.
- Nov. 24 to Dec. 1 – Eight cases reported, seven from NWP and one subcontractor last at the site March 24 to Nov. 23.
- Nov. 18 to 23 – 13 positive cases reported, nine NWP, three subcontractor, one CBFO last at the site Oct. 26 to Nov. 19.
- Nov. 11 to Nov. 17 – 20 cases reported, 15 NWP, four subcontractor and one from CBFO, last at the site from March 24 to Nov. 12.
- Nov. 4 to Nov. 10 – 20 cases reported, 11 NWP, six subcontractor and four CBFO employees last at the site between March 24 and Nov. 8.
- Oct. 27 to Nov. 28 – Four positives reported, last at site Oct. 8 and 26.
- Oct. 18 to 26 – 17 cases reported, last at the site Oct. 3 and 23.
- Oct. 8 to 17 – 18 cases reported, last at site Sept. 17 and Oct. 14.
- Sept. 30 to Oct. 7 – Six positives reported. Three last at site Oct. 1 and others Sept. 20 to 30.
- Sept. 23 to 29 – Two positives reported, one was last at site on Sept. 16 and other not since July.
- Sept. 16 to 22 – One positive reported, last at site Sept. 16.
- Sept. 10 to 15 – Two positives. One last at site Sept. 2 and other on extended leave.
- Sept. 5 to 9 – Two positives. One NWP and one subcontractor last at site between Aug. 20 and Sept. 2.
- Sept. 2 to 3 – Four NWP employees tested positive, last at the site from Aug. 16 to 27.
- Aug. 3 to 27 – 15 NWP employees tested positive, and one worker at Regulatory Environmental Services, last at the site July 30 to Aug. 30.
- July 21 – One NWP employee tested positive, last at the site July 7
- July 9 – One CAST Specialty Trucking employee who worked at trucking terminal in Carlsbad where WIPP trucks transit tested positive.
- June 19 – One NWP employee tested positive, teleworking since March.
Adrian Hedden can be reached at 575-618-7631, email@example.com or @AdrianHedden on Twitter.