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NM sees record daily number of virus cases

In this file photo from Sept. 11, drivers wait in line at the Presbyterian COVID-19 testing site at Balloon Fiesta Park in Albuquerque. (Jim Thompson/Albuquerque Journal)

Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal

On Friday, New Mexico reported 488 new cases of COVID-19 — a record for daily cases since the pandemic entered the state seven months ago.

The previous highest number of cases was recorded in late July, when there was 455.

Not only that, the seven-day rolling average is also nearing the record high. At 320, it is just below the July 29 peak of 330 cases a day on average.

The daily record came the same day as about 250 student athletes, coaches and parents gathered in the Northeast Heights to protest against the governor’s decision to cancel fall high school athletics until next year. (Story on Sports, page B-1.)

When asked if the high case counts could be attributed to any specific outbreaks, the governor’s spokeswoman Nora Meyers Sackett said “no.” She said the high numbers are attributable to the fact that the state is experiencing “widespread COVID-19 activity throughout the state.”

“Only seven New Mexico counties did not record new cases today,” Sackett wrote in a statement.

Leading the surge is Bernalillo County with 135 new cases, according to a news release from the Governor’s Office. There were 81 new cases in Doña Ana County, 41 new cases in Chaves County, 36 new cases in Lea County, and 28 new cases in Eddy and Sandoval counties.

Three deaths were also reported Friday: a Chaves County man in his 70s, a Chaves County man in his 80s who was hospitalized and had underlying conditions, and a Sandoval County man in his 80s who was hospitalized and had underlying conditions.

The total number of people who have died from COVID-19 in New Mexico is now 902. The total number of cases is 32,241.

“COVID-19 is spreading all across New Mexico because New Mexicans are giving it the opportunity to spread. Period,” Sackett wrote. “These numbers underline everything the governor said yesterday in her weekly update — it is absolutely critical that New Mexicans recommit to stopping the spread of COVID-19.”

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham — who is in quarantine at her official residence after a possible exposure to the virus — warned on Thursday that the state could become the nation’s next COVID-19 epicenter and that it is at “extreme risk of uncontrollable spread.”

While Sackett didn’t point to specific outbreaks, the Metropolitan Detention Center in Bernalillo County has been experiencing its own surge of cases since the beginning of the month.

Julia Rivera, a spokeswoman for the county jail, said there were 28 new cases among inmates reported Friday. Since Oct. 1, there has been 124 cases at the jail, Rivera said.

There has been a total of 196 cases among inmates and 29 cases among staff.

Of those, 69 inmates and 20 staff members have recovered. But 69 inmates and 22 staff members are also still waiting for results.

Rivera said no inmates have been hospitalized and none have died due to COVID-19. She did say there was a death at the jail on Oct. 4 and officials are still waiting for an autopsy to determine the cause of death.

Statewide, as of Friday, 133 people are hospitalized with the illness caused by the novel coronavirus, according to the Governor’s Office. That figure is a 49% increase from last Friday. The number includes people who test positive out of state but are brought to a hospital in New Mexico and does not include New Mexicans who have been transferred out of state.

The New Mexico Department of Health has 18,335 cases as recovered.

The state experienced a surge in COVID-19 in July, before cases began to fall again through August and into September.

At its low point, on Sept. 12, there were 88 cases as a seven-day average.

Friday’s seven-day average of 320 is 3.6 times that.

Journal staff writer Dan McKay contributed to this report.

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