Category: Front Page News Front Page News
Published: 13 January 2022 13 January 2022

[Editor's Note: This is the second of several articles to cover the presentations on Jan. 11, 2022 and the review of the regular meeting that would take place on Jan. 13, 2022. It covers the presentation by the Grant County Community Health Council and the 2021 report from the Grant County Cooperative Extension Office.]

By Mary Alice Murphy

The second presentation at the Grant County Commission work session on Jan. 11, 2022, addressed an update from the Grant County Community Health Council.

Chair Marilyn Alcorn said she would give updates on the health council after Jeff Fell, Silver City Assistant Fire Chief and Emergency Manager, gave an update on what the task force on the pandemic that he heads is currently doing.

Fell said the group took a couple of weeks off during the holidays, without a meeting. "We did have a meeting yesterday. We are now managing collaborative messaging. We know we don't have control over the testing supplies. Silver Schools Superintendent William Hawkins said they ran out of testing materials yesterday [Monday, Jan. 10]. If the mandate to require testing at companies with more than 100 employees starts, supplies are my concern, because it's already a problem. We will be testing the unvaccinated in February. How can we boost testing operations? On the vaccination side, we are steady as we go. Hidalgo Medical Services, the Department of Health and the pharmacies are still providing vaccines. A lot of questions come in when it takes a week for the New Mexico DOH to go through the new CDC guidelines."

District 5 Commissioner Harry Browne said his question was a long shot. "Is there any indication what the New Mexico OSHA has said will happen if an employer cannot test?"

Fell said, to his knowledge, if an employee does not provide a negative test every seven days, they cannot come to work, but can work remotely if possible.County Manager Tim Zamora said county counsel, Ben Young of Mynatt, Martinez and Springer, would provide an OSHA update on the legal aspects.

Young noted the U.S. Supreme Court was expected to issue a decision on the mandate.

[Editor's Note: The U.S. Supreme Court today, Jan. 13, 2022, in a split decision, blocked the private sector vaccine mandate, but allowed the requirement to remain for health-care workers.]

Fell said from a community health aspect, the health council task force is trying to plan in case the mandate gets implemented.

He noted that Watts Hall location, where testing is taking place, tested more than 400 in one day, setting a record.

Alcorn said, "piggybacking on Jeff's Watts Hall report, just so people are aware that testing takes place there Tuesday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. It is recommended that people set up an appointment with, so that lines aren't long. People have been upset by walk-ins to testing locations."

She said the Covid task force meeting would take place that afternoon [Jan. 11] via Zoom. She said HMS continues to offer testing and vaccines at its Covid Clinic. The anti-poverty and equity network has arranged for the school districts to meet to address the issues. "We are working on the CDC-DOH vaccine equity grant. We are also close to getting an administrative assistant hired that will help with grant management, deliverables, health council scheduling, minutes and other communication needs."

Alcorn said HMS would be deploying its mobile vaccination van out into the more remote communities. Check with HMS for the schedule and locations.

"The health council steering committee meeting is on Jan. 20 at 3 p.m.," Alcorn said. "And our behavioral health and substance misuse network will coordinate a Narcan training from 10 a.m. to 12 noon on Feb. 3, at the Center for Health Innovations. We have also been asked by Georgetown University to participate to assist policy makers around rural community health."

The commissioners had no questions.

The next presentation addressed the 2021 Cooperative Extension Service annual report.

Jessica Swapp-Massengill said: "I have been the Grant County Extension Agent for 4-H and agriculture for six years. I do programming for livestock producers and horticulture. I assist livestock producers. I held one in-person beef cattle pregnancy determination workshop last year alongside an NMSU cattle specialist, where we practiced on a real cow, who was open, meaning not pregnant, and a dummy cow. I created a 'Grant County Ultimate Gardening Guide,' a collection of NMSU extension published gardening information. It is now being used across the state. Due to my presence on social media, I began to see people having problems here with a small black beetle. I identified it as a black blister beetle and found information on it and its control. It became a major issue in the community. In 4-H, I teach youth and adult leadership development. Thanks to volunteer help, I held 10 workshops, covering shooting sports, livestock production, sewing, baking, braiding and council leadership. I was able to provide educational information to three meetings, on pumpkins and how to raise them, turkeys from farm to table and how Christmas trees are grown. I also provided two sessions for adult volunteers to help them with programming and how to provide meaningful and educational programming, as well as how to teach youth leadership skills."

She said Covid-19 caused her to gain some "interesting skills that I would never have imagined six years ago. The first was the launch of the Grant County Extension Connection podcast. It first launched in December 2019. It began with the goal to reach busy people with education and has grown exponentially. It has 19 episodes, covering topics, such as information about 4-H, the master gardening program, murder hornets, chile production in New Mexico, the proper use of PPE (personal protection equipment) during quarantine, show and livestock care handling, and an episode devoted to the truth about turkeys. The episodes have been downloaded more than 1,500 times by listeners in 41 states and in 18 countries. In 2021, my podcast was the New Mexico Ag Agent Association state winner in the audio category and the Western Regional winner, as well as winner in the National Ag Agent Association. The podcast was also the state and regional winner for the New Mexico 4-H Agent Association and the National 4-H Agent Association winner."

"Another skill I have learned is how to produce and edit my own educational videos on our Grant County Cooperative Extension YouTube channel," Swapp-Massengill said. "The videos were watched more than 4,700 times in the U.S. and New Zealand. The videos are also on the NMSU Extension channel and there is no telling how many viewers have seen them there."

In short, 2021 was a new and different year. "Judy O'Loughlin retired in June 2021, and I assumed the interim county director. One of the most valued awards of my career was being chosen as the New Mexico 4-H Outstanding agent. This award was voted on by my extension colleagues around the state. Also in 2021, I submitted my packet to NMSU for promotion and tenure. If accepted, I will become NMSU assistant professor and tenured as a professor. My packet has passed the NMSU College of ACES (Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences) with five passing votes, with no objections. It is now moving up the chain and I hope to hear the results this spring."

She then introduced the new Family and Consumer Science Agent Brie Gottschalk. "She is one week on the job, so she's now an expert. We're very excited to have another agent in the office to be impactful on the community. She has some really good ideas, and she's a good fit for our community."

Other than a congratulations from District 3 Commissioner Alicia Edwards no one had questions.

The next article in the series will address the report from Silver City District Ranger Beth Ihle.