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Big spike in COVID-19 cases at county jail

Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal

The Bernalillo County Metropolitan Detention Center registered 73 new cases of COVID-19 since Sunday. That’s in addition to 32 cases at the jail on Saturday.

Julia Rivera, a spokeswoman for MDC, said the surge has come alongside an uptick in bookings – 314 – over the past few weekends. As restrictions have eased, she said the facility has seen more and more arrests come in.

“The bulk of these cases are coming out of intake pods and are indicative of how this is playing out,” she said. “Based on the numbers, it appears there is something happening on the streets that’s causing us to have a little higher of a volume.”

Gilbert Gallegos, an Albuquerque police spokesman, said officers booked 51 people into jail following an anti-crime operation last week. Since August, police have arrested 202 people in similar operations.

Rivera said two MDC staff members have also tested positive. In all, the jail has tallied 180 cases of COVID-19 since the pandemic began and 105 of those have been recorded since Saturday.

The spike is the largest seen at MDC, which, like many jails across the state, has grappled with COVID-19 cases since March.

Many headlines on the issue have focused on keeping the virus out of state prisons that have been hammered by cases – particularly among inmates at the Otero County Prison, Lea County Correctional Facility and Central New Mexico Correctional Facility.

The situation in jails has stayed quiet by comparison, as the state doesn’t publicly separate the number of cases in detention centers and instead rounds them into county totals in its daily updates.

By mid-August, the Doña Ana County Detention Center and San Juan County Adult Detention Center were among the worst hit with 137 cases and 274 cases, respectively.

The outbreak at MDC contributed to the total of 138 cases reported Tuesday in Bernalillo County, which held the lion’s share of the 316 new cases reported across the state.

Nora Meyers Sackett, a spokeswoman for the Governor’s Office, said no additional deaths from the virus were reported.

Outside Bernalillo County, the new cases were: 37 in Doña Ana County; 23 in Eddy County; 19 each in Lea and San Juan counties; 14 in Valencia County; 12 in Chaves County; 11 each in Curry and McKinley counties; 10 in Santa Fe County; five in Sandoval County; four in Roosevelt County; three in Torrance County; two in Luna County; and one each in Grant, Lincoln, Los Alamos, Otero, San Miguel and Socorro counties.

There were also two new cases reported among inmates held by Immigration and Customs Enforcement at the Otero County Processing Center.

In all, New Mexico has recorded 30,947 cases of COVID-19 and 894 deaths related to the virus since the first case was reported in March.

There are currently 110 people hospitalized with the virus, 14 on ventilators, and 17,489 cases designated as having recovered by the New Mexico Department of Health.

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