One new case of COVID-19 was reported at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant last week while the nuclear waste facility and surrounding community appears to be seeing some solace from the pandemic after more than a year.
The employee was last at the site on Feb. 23, reporting the positive test result between Feb. 25 and March 3.
WIPP also reported just two active cases among recovering workers uncleared to return to work after being infected.
The latest report was the fourth week in a row that WIPP reported a weekly COVID-19 caseload of less than five new cases. A total of 257 workers were infected since the deadly pandemic struck New Mexico in March 2020.
During the winter and fall, WIPP was consistently reporting double-digit weekly increases as the pandemic lashed New Mexico and the southeast region where the facility is located near the Eddy-Lea county line.
But both counties also reported shrinking caseloads in recent weeks, compared with nearly or more than 100 cases reported daily during the pandemic’s peak.
On Sunday, Eddy County reported seven new cases for a total of 6,530 while Lea County reported no cases and maintained its total of 8,108.
No new deaths were reported in either county while the state reported 12 new fatalities along with 183 new cases for a total of 186,922.
Lea County continued its status as a “yellow” county, meaning it met one of two requirements to lower business and public gathering restrictions with 9.6 cases of 100,000 compared to the benchmark of 8 case per 100,000 and a positivity rate of 4.76 percent – barely below the required 5 percent.
Eddy remained one of four counties still under “red” restrictions, meaning indoor dining was closed and public gatherings were severely limited, with 17 cases per 100,000 and a 5.85 percent positivity rate.
WIPP spokesman Bobby St. John said the decline in positive cases at WIPP was directly tied to the reduction in infections in the local area near the site where many WIPP employees live and where vaccines recently increased in availability and use.
He said the COVID-19 situation would continue to be observed by WIPP as COVID-19 guidelines are followed and operations continue.
“The safety of our workforce remains our top priority. We are very pleased to see the reduction in COVID-19 numbers in our communities and at the WIPP site, which is representative of the reduction in positive cases both statewide and locally,” St. John said.
“WIPP continues to follow all applicable federal and state COVD-19 guidelines and will continue to closely monitor conditions and COVID impacts to overall WIPP operations.”
Past COVID-19 cases at WIPP
- 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 protected] or @AdrianHedden on Twitter.