Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal
SANTA FE – The number of new coronavirus cases confirmed in New Mexico exploded to 248 on Thursday – the second-highest total for a day since the pandemic arrived March 11.
The growth was driven, in part, by 97 new cases in Bernalillo County, the state’s most populous county and home to Albuquerque, health officials reported. It was more than twice as many cases in the county as the day before.
State health officials also reported three deaths Thursday, pushing the statewide total to 503. All had underlying health conditions.
The 248 cases confirmed by testing Thursday were the most in any day other than June 5, when an outbreak at the Otero County prison helped push the daily case total to 330.
The increase comes as statistical modeling by Presbyterian Healthcare shows the transmission rate of the disease accelerating.
Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham has responded by announcing the state will begin aggressively enforcing the requirement for people to wear masks in public settings, except when eating, drinking or exercising.
She is also requiring visitors to New Mexico to quarantine for 14 days, regardless of whether they travel by car or plane.
Lujan Grisham and state health officials say the new cases reflect an increasing number of young people. University of New Mexico Hospital has seen an uptick in the number of young people hospitalized for coronavirus symptoms, CEO Kate Becker told Bernalillo County commissioners this week.
Contributing to the increase in cases, state officials say, are the partial reopening of the economy, people’s fatigue at being cooped up so long and large family gatherings.
But Lujan Grisham said there isn’t evidence that recent outdoor protests against police brutality and racial injustice were a significant factor.
The three adults whose deaths were announced Thursday were a woman in her 50s from Bernalillo County, and a man in his 30s and a woman in her 60s from McKinley County.
The state has now confirmed 12,520 cases of the disease out of 356,637 tests – a positive rate of 3.5%.
The governor has urged people to avoid family get-togethers and public events over the Fourth of July weekend. A public health order bans gatherings of five or more people, even in private settings.
“This is exactly the kind of terrible spread of this virus that will force the state to reenact business restrictions in the near future,” Lujan Grisham said on Twitter. “We can still turn it around – but time is limited.”
The number of people hospitalized overall remained flat on Thursday at 127 patients. The state classifies 5,627 individuals as having recovered from the disease, though the total is almost certainly higher, officials say.