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NM reaches virus targets – officially, this time


In this file Aug. 6 photo, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham wears a Dia de los Muertos mask as she gives an update on New Mexico’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. (Eddie Moore/Albuquerque Journal)

Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal

SANTA FE – New Mexico now meets every standard it outlined as necessary for reopening more of the economy, even by its own calculation.

The state Department of Health on Wednesday updated its seven-day rolling average of new cases, and it’s clear New Mexico is well within its target.

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and state health officials last week set a goal of reducing new cases to under 168 a day – the final standard in their reopening criteria.

The publicly reported number of cases each day fell below that level earlier this week. But state health officials warned Tuesday that they calculate the rate based on the day the specimen was collected for testing, not when a result is reported to the public.

Either way, Wednesday’s updated figures released by the state make clear that New Mexico meets the target.

The Department of Health estimates the rolling average at 137 cases a day for testing conducted in the week that ended Aug. 13, the most recent period for which data is available.

The state had, for the past week, already met the other criteria, including standards on testing capacity, the time it takes to isolate people who test positive and other factors.

New Mexico’s public health order – banning indoor dining at restaurants, among other restrictions – is scheduled to expire at the end of next week. The Lujan Grisham administration can, of course, revise or extend the order.

State health officials have said they want to see New Mexico comply with reopening criteria for some time before phasing in less stringent rules. They’ve also said they want to build in a buffer by getting far enough under the standards to allow for an expected increase in cases if regulations are relaxed or schools start to hold in-person classes.

The state on Wednesday reported six more deaths from coronavirus, pushing the statewide number of fatalities to 729 since March.

Those who died were three adults in Bernalillo County and one each in McKinley, San Juan and Taos counties. All six had underlying medical conditions; they ranged in age from their 30s to their 80s.

Health officials also said testing had detected 174 new cases, led by Bernalillo County, with 33 new infections.

The state has now confirmed 23,749 cases of the virus out of 688,495 tests, for a positivity rate of 3.4%.

But the rate has been lower recently – at just 2.6% in the seven-day period that ended Sunday.

New Mexico has cut its number of new cases reported each day this month from a seven-day rolling average of 288 on Aug. 1 to 134 on Wednesday.

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