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Virus deaths reach 601 in New Mexico


In this file photo from Thursday, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham announces during a public briefing that schools must start the year with distance learning for most students. (Eddie Moore/Albuquerque Journal)

Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal

SANTA FE – New Mexico’s coronavirus death toll climbed to 601 on Friday as health officials announced the deaths of five more residents.

They ranged in age from a man in his 30s in San Juan County to a woman in her 90s in Bernalillo County. All but one had an underlying medical condition.

The state also reported 317 new coronavirus cases, continuing a surge that pushed the average daily case numbers to a record high earlier this week.

Through Friday, New Mexico averaged about 288 cases over the past seven days, just one below the record of 289 set Thursday.

The number of daily virus deaths, by contrast, is nowhere near the state’s peak in mid-May, when about 10 people a day died on average. Over the past week, about five people a day have died.

The victims reported Friday include two adults from Bernalillo County, and one each from Curry, Doña Ana and San Juan counties.

A projection by Los Alamos National Laboratory estimates New Mexico will hit its next grim milestone – 700 deaths – in less than six weeks, around Sept. 2.

A forecast by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington is more pessimistic. It estimates 775 deaths by Sept. 2, though the institute says universal mask usage could cut that figure to 734.

Adjusted for population, New Mexico has had more virus deaths than Texas, but fewer than Colorado and Arizona, according to Los Alamos National Laboratory figures through Wednesday.

Altogether, New Mexico health officials say they have confirmed 18,475 cases of the coronavirus out of 505,177 tests, for a positivity rate of 3.7%. The rate has ticked up slightly this week.

New Mexico’s reopening plans are on hold.

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham has responded to the increasing infection numbers by tightening New Mexico’s mask mandate, eliminating an exception for exercise. She has also vowed aggressive enforcement.

Lujan Grisham said this week that more New Mexicans are wearing masks, but their use must become more widespread to slow the spread of the disease.

“I don’t know how this got politicized,” she said of masks.

The state this month reimposed a ban on indoor dining at restaurants and instructed schools to postpone in-person classes through at least Labor Day.

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