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11 virus deaths biggest one-day toll since May

Health care workers test people for COVID-19 during a drive-thru session at the First Nations Community Health Source center on Truman SE in May. (Roberto E. Rosales/Albuquerque Journal)

Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal

Eleven more New Mexicans with COVID-19 have died, and virus-related hospitalizations continue to break records, according to the latest data from the state.

Wednesday’s report marks the highest daily death toll in more than five months and brings total statewide fatalities to 991.

The 663 new COVID-19 infections announced Wednesday is below last week’s all-time high and puts the seven-day average at 731. After about a month of rapid growth, the average has now fallen for two consecutive days but remains well above the level of even a week ago, when it was 632.

New Mexico has not reported 11 deaths in one day since May 21. Most of the people who died then were residents of assisted living or other congregate living and acute care facilities.

Only one of the 11 whose deaths were reported Wednesday was noted as living in such a facility: a woman in her 90s from Bernalillo County with underlying health conditions.

The other 10 were three more people from Bernalillo County, two each from Curry and Doña Ana counties, and one each from Eddy, Roosevelt and Taos counties.

They ranged in age from their 50s to 90s. All were hospitalized, and seven of the 10 also had underlying medical conditions.

As of Wednesday, 313 people with COVID-19 were hospitalized around the state, another record. Hospitalizations have more than quadrupled in the past month, and there are now 45 people on ventilators.

The hospitalized may include people who were diagnosed with COVID-19 out of state and transferred to New Mexico, but not those who tested positive in New Mexico and are now hospitalized elsewhere.

Currently, 78% of New Mexico’s general hospital beds are occupied and 79% of the state’s intensive care beds are in use, according to a news release from Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s office. That includes use by COVID-19 patients and those treated for other reasons.

Bernalillo County, which includes Albuquerque and is the state’s most populous county, had the most new infections Wednesday, with 273. Doña Ana, which includes Las Cruces, recorded 97. The next-highest were Santa Fe County, with 46; Eddy, with 44; and Lea, with 23.

Mark DiMenna, deputy director of the city’s Environmental Health Department, said that COVID-19 numbers are getting worse around the country and that Albuquerque is no exception.

“This is somewhat expected, but we need to not give in to that,” he said during a media briefing Wednesday from City Hall.

The city recently conducted a five-day “enforcement blitz” to promote compliance with the statewide public health order, including guidelines that restrict gatherings to five or fewer people and require mask wearing in public. Environmental Health employees – who inspect restaurants and other food establishments – provided manpower for the effort, as did the Fire Marshal’s Office, the Code Enforcement Division, the Parks and Recreation Department and Albuquerque police.

The city issued more than 300 notices of violation – the equivalent of a warning – and seven citations out of more than 1,400 compliance-related interactions.

“Over 1,000 were in compliance,” said Capt. Jacob Goevelinger with the city Fire Marshal’s Office.

“It’s really critical we don’t go from bad to worse,” Mayor Tim Keller said Wednesday of the city’s COVID-19 numbers.

He stressed the importance of celebrating Halloween as safely as possible, urging residents to consider the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance for the holiday. The CDC has listed several holiday activities by their associated risk level, declaring standard trick-or-treating and indoor haunted houses as “higher-risk” activities, while identifying inner-household scavenger hunts for treats and pumpkin-carving as “lower-risk” options.

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