ALAMO­ NAVAJO – With the arrival last week of 30 doses of COVID-19 vaccine, medical personnel here may be feeling a bit less stressed. The two-dose vaccine will cover 15 front-line workers of the several dozen employees at the Alamo Wellness Center, according to Amy Ellis, director.

Separated from the large Navajo (Diné) nation, the small community is remote and often the last to access services. But they became the subject of national attention early in the pandemic when three prominent members of the community died from the disease. Marcus, Marie, and Ira Pino all died within six weeks bringing into sharp focus the challenges of many.

Through all this, Ellis said her medical staff has been amazing. “I am just amazed to watch their resilience and their dedication to continue to serve,” she said. “This is a small community and it really boggles my mind,” to think of all the death. And not only from COVID, she said, noting the two young men who died recently in a car wreck, and the death recently of Chapter President Buddy Mexicano.

“This is a tightly knit community with a lot of extended families. It is going to take a long time to recover,” Ellis said.

Other officials stressed that Alamo is no different from other communities. “It’s the same situation as we see elsewhere,” said Frank Curley, CEO of the Alamo School Board, which runs the school, wellness clinic, and other operations at Alamo. “It seems the spikes happen after the holidays. People are gathering for birthday parties and holidays.”

The Alamo Wellness Clinic, he said, is doing a good job of handling their workload. While the clinic has no beds, the clinic handles the testing and determines if a patient needs to quarantine at home or elsewhere. Some are staying in Albuquerque now, Curley said, after the cool reception in Socorro. Those needing more intense care often are flown from the clinic’s heliport to Albuquerque.

Patients staying at home, Ellis said, are checked on the patient daily. “Everyone in the community has really stepped up to the plate. They are carrying multiple hats,” in making sure everyone has food and water, she said.

Alamo did receive some CARES money, Curley said, which helped to purchase food baskets. And they have had several food drives. “We are working with the state and the Navajo Nation to meet the community needs,” he said.

Curley noted that the Wellness Clinic which employs 75 people, normally covers wellness services, primary care, and other services as well as EMS services. Alamo is following Navajo Nation and CDC guidelines during the pandemic, with staff taking staggered work hours, he said. “Our staff has done a remarkable job given all the deaths.”

Ellis agrees. “This virus is unpredictable,” she notes. “Things are changing at every turn. We are still restricted on the weekends. I think people are beginning to be more diligent in how they interact by staying away or socially distancing.” It has been a challenge as well to adapt to the changing regulations, she said.

“Our pharmacy has been the bomb diggity,” Ellis said, in ensuring they were in line for vaccines. In fact, she said, “Everyone has stepped up to the plate and worn multiple hats, taking food and water to people.

“It’s been amazing to watch,” Ellis said.

Gwen Roath | Guest Writer