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NM case totals fall to just shy of 168 target


In this file photo from last week, Monica Chacon, co-owner of Mesa Vista Cafe in Ojo Caliente, wears a mask while working at the restaurant. (Eddie Moore/Albuquerque Journal)

Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal

SANTA FE – Not so fast, state health officials say.

New Mexico’s daily average of new coronavirus cases, officials say, hasn’t fallen far enough yet to meet the state’s reopening criteria – despite appearances to the contrary.

The discrepancy lies in how the state calculates the rolling seven-day average.

Health officials create their average by attributing each positive test to the day the specimen was collected for testing, not when the case is reported to the public.

The distinction is meaningful when it comes to determining whether New Mexico has hit its target of 168 new cases a day on average over a seven-day period.

By the state’s measurement, the latest average is 174 cases a day, based on specimens collected in the seven days that ended on Aug. 3, according to online records published by the Department of Health. A more recent figure isn’t available, state officials say, because of a lag in case reporting.

But the state is well below the 168-case target when measured by how many cases are reported to the public each day. By that standard, the state has averaged just 135 daily cases over the past seven days, according to a Journal analysis.

Despite the difference, both measurements show plummeting case totals since a peak in late July.

The state, for example, reported just 79 new virus cases Tuesday – the smallest figures for a day since June.

Health officials also said Tuesday that five more people had died in the virus outbreak, pushing the statewide death toll to 723 since March.

The latest victims ranged in age from their 60s to their 90s, and four of the five had underlying medical conditions.

Bernalillo County had the most new cases, with 20, also a downward trend.

New Mexico’s public health order is scheduled to expire Aug. 28, although Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s administration may amend or extend it.

The order prohibits gatherings of more than five people, bans indoor dining at restaurants and limits a variety of businesses to partial capacity. Masks are required in public settings, except for eating or drinking.

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