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NM COVID-19 case growth continues

A fifth-grade student at a Socorro elementary school scrubs her hands with hand sanitizer earlier this month. Some New Mexico public schools have been allowed to reopen under a hybrid teaching model. (Blake Gumprecht/El Defensor Chieftain)

Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal

SANTA FE – New Mexico has added three states to its list of “high-risk” destinations that fall under a 14-day travel quarantine order, even as its own COVID-19 case count continued a recent uptick.

Colorado was one of the states moved to high risk Wednesday by New Mexico officials – along with Oregon and Rhode Island – due to its recent virus spread rate.

New Mexico’s northern neighbor had been among a list of low-risk states that were exempted from the mandatory travel quarantine under a revised order issued this month by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham.

Michigan and Hawaii were removed from the state’s list Wednesday, meaning there are now 39 states – including all of New Mexico’s neighbors – that are currently covered by the state’s travel quarantine order, which is updated weekly.

New Mexico has one of the nation’s strictest travel quarantines, even in its revised form. But the mandate has not been strictly enforced since first being enacted in March, as state officials have said it’s intended to function as more of a deterrent.

There are some allowable exemptions to the order, including for individuals who leave the state to obtain medical care and for residents who travel outside New Mexico for less than 24 hours due to parental responsibilities.

Another exemption allows anyone who tests negative for COVID-19 shortly before or after arriving in New Mexico to not have to comply with the quarantine mandate.

Meanwhile, state health officials announced on Wednesday the state’s highest number of new coronavirus cases in nearly a month, with elevated case counts in several southern New Mexico counties driving the increase.

The 200 new confirmed COVID-19 cases are the state’s highest single-day figure since Aug. 26, and raised the state’s seven-day rolling average of new cases to 135, according to a Journal analysis.

That’s still significantly lower than the state’s average case growth during most of July and August, but it marks the largest number so far this month.

Top state epidemiologists said this week they’re tracking whether the recent uptick in COVID-19 cases may be attributable to travel and social gatherings over Labor Day weekend.

On Wednesday, more than 20 new cases were reported in each Doña Ana, Bernalillo, Chaves and Eddy counties, while 11 new cases were reported among inmates at the Lea County Correctional Facility in Hobbs.

Meanwhile, state health officials also announced three additional deaths related to COVID-19, bringing the state’s death toll to 857 since the pandemic first hit New Mexico in mid-March.

The three new deaths were reported in Lea, McKinley and Doña Ana counties. All involved individuals in their 60s or 70s.

Most New Mexicans who have died from the virus have been elderly individuals with underlying health conditions like diabetes, heart disease and lung disease, though some younger residents have also died.

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