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NM virus cases stabilize after July spike


In this file photo from March, medical personnel screen patients at the Presbyterian drive-up COVID-19 testing center in northwestern Albuquerque. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis/Journal)

Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal

SANTA FE – New Mexico reported 202 new coronavirus cases Tuesday as infections appeared to stabilize following a steep drop from late July.

Health officials also said three more residents had died in the outbreak, pushing the number of fatalities to 693 since the pandemic’s arrival in March.

The state’s seven-day rolling average is now 187 cases a day – roughly in line with the averages for the past four days. But the figure is a 43% drop from July 29, when cases peaked at an average of 330 a day.

Deaths are down, too. The three fatalities announced Tuesday are a little less than the average for the past week of five deaths a day.

Coronavirus deaths peaked in New Mexico at 10 a day in mid-May.

New Mexico’s progress was noticed Tuesday by New York, which removed New Mexico from the list of states whose travelers must quarantine for 14 days when visiting. New York’s travel advisories are based on the prevalence of the disease in each state and positivity rates over a recent seven-day period.

As for New Mexico, statistical modeling by Presbyterian Healthcare Services and state health officials estimates that COVID-19 is still spreading at a rate slow enough to meet New Mexico’s goal – a transmission rate below 1.05.

The state’s transmission rate is 0.7, meaning each person who’s infected will spread the disease to less than one other person on average, a rate that should push case totals down.

The disease is spreading most rapidly in southeastern New Mexico, where the transmission rate is estimated at 1.0, according to the modeling. In the Albuquerque area, by contrast, the spread rate is just 0.6.

Infections are climbing in Lea County, which reported 33 new cases Tuesday, just three fewer than Bernalillo County, the most populous part of the state.

Doña Ana County in southern New Mexico led the state with 50 cases Tuesday.

The three deaths announced Tuesday were adults in their 40s or 50s. Two had an underlying health condition, a risk factor for the disease.

Since March, the state has confirmed 22,643 cases of the disease through 640,337 tests, for a positivity rate of 3.5%.

But the state reported a much lower positivity rate more recently – just 2.6% in the seven-day period through Sunday.

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