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‘A shocking new record’ – 28 deaths in 1 day

Staff perform COVID-19 screenings at the Lovelace Hospital site on Martin Luther King Blvd near downtown Albuquerque last week. (Roberto E. Rosales/Albuquerque Journal)

Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal

SANTA FE – New Mexico reported the death of its youngest COVID-19 victim so far – a preteen boy – as it set a number of troubling records Tuesday, including new daily highs in cases, hospitalizations and deaths.

The youngster’s identity and age weren’t disclosed because of health privacy rules. But state officials described him as a male 12 or younger from Bernalillo County.

He had been hospitalized and had an underlying health condition of some kind.

The state reported 28 fatalities related to the virus Tuesday – the most in a single day so far. The other deaths were adults ranging in age from their 30s to their 90s.

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham described the boy’s death as the first pediatric COVID-19 fatality in New Mexico.

“Please understand: This is an emergency,” she tweeted.

The statewide death toll related to the coronavirus now stands at 1,264 residents, according to the Department of Health. A forecast by Los Alamos National Laboratory estimates New Mexico will reach 2,100 virus deaths within six weeks.

Among Tuesday’s record-setting totals:

• The 28 deaths reported are the most in a day, about 22% higher than the previous record of 23, set Nov. 5.

• Testing detected 2,112 new cases of the disease, about 21% higher than the previous record for a day, set Thursday last week.

• More than 750 virus patients are now in New Mexico hospitals, the most ever reported to the public, though the state recently changed its method of recording hospitalizations. It now gets them directly from the hospitals rather than relying on case investigations and contact tracing.

Human Services Secretary David Scrase said Tuesday state officials have been expecting an increase in coronavirus-related deaths, after a previous surge in hospitalizations.

The state’s recent order of six mobile mortuaries – two of them are replacements for current mobile morgues – was necessary, he said, to prepare for a disaster-type scenario involving higher-than-usual deaths.

“For the people who believe in COVID, it shouldn’t come as a surprise,” Scrase told the Journal.

The six mobile mortuaries can each hold up to 40 bodies. They will be initially stationed at the Office of the Medical Investigator in Albuquerque, but they can be moved around New Mexico depending on need, according to the state Department of Health.

“It’s a challenging part of the pandemic,” Scrase said. “The best possible solution to this issue is having fewer deaths.”

The state has averaged about 17 coronavirus fatalities a day over the last week – more than at any other point in the pandemic, according to a Journal analysis.

Twenty of the 28 deaths reported Tuesday involved people with preexisting health conditions. Common conditions among New Mexico’s coronavirus deaths are heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and obesity.

One of the deaths was a state inmate in his 70s at Central New Mexico Correctional Facility in Valencia County.

Customers line up outside Sam’s Club on Renaissance NE as New Mexico enters the second day of a two-week near-shutdown due to a spike in COVID-19 infections. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis/Albuquerque Journal)

Lujan Grisham urged New Mexicans on Tuesday to adhere to a stay-at-home instruction as part of a strategy to help limit the transmission of COVID-19. A strict health order that began Monday also prohibits on-site dining at restaurants and imposes broad restrictions on other in-person business activity.

The order is set to expire Nov. 30, though it may be extended or revised.

“Here’s what happened today: A shocking new high point for cases. A shocking new record of deaths,” Lujan Grisham said on Twitter. “New Mexico’s first pediatric COVID-19 death – a pre-teen has died.”

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