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More testing sites to open as numbers of virus cases explode

Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal

As demand for COVID-19 testing increases, a double line of cars snakes through the Expo New Mexico parking lot in Albuquerque Friday. Officials say five more testing sites around the state will open Saturday. (Roberto E. Rosales/Albuquerque Journal)

SANTA FE – New Mexico’s rolling average of new COVID-19 cases eclipsed the 2,000-cases-per-day mark for the first time Friday, while state officials also reported 23 additional deaths related to the disease.

The spike in coronavirus cases, hospitalizations and deaths has renewed concerns about New Mexico’s health care system being overwhelmed.

It also prompted Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s administration to issue a two-week shutdown order that runs through Thanksgiving.

While the 2,993 new cases reported Friday was not a record high – more than 3,600 cases were announced Thursday – it marked the state’s second-highest single-day case figure.

Overall, the state’s coronavirus case growth has more than tripled over the past month, rising to an average of 2,158 new cases per day from an average of 596 new cases daily on Oct. 20, according to a Journal analysis.

And the number of new cases reported over the past three days – more than 9,500 – is more than double the 4,087 new cases recorded in New Mexico during all of September.

The surge in new cases has led to delays and lengthy wait times for COVID-19 testing in some parts of New Mexico, including Albuquerque and Santa Fe.

In response, the state Department of Health announced Friday it would establish new temporary testing sites in Socorro, Santa Fe, Las Cruces, Sunland Park and Albuquerque.

The additional sites will open Saturday – individuals are required to pre-register for a test at – and are expected to remain open for about a week. State health officials recommend those tested quarantine at home until they get their test results.

“Expanding New Mexico’s free testing capacity is critical right now as skyrocketing positivity rates indicate the virus is spreading exponentially in every corner in the state,” acting Health Secretary Billy Jimenez said. “Getting tested is the first step in taking our state from red to green – and saving lives.”

The five additional testing sites will provide testing to both individuals with symptoms and those who are asymptomatic, but may have come into contact with an infected person. Here are details on the sites, which will not be open on Thanksgiving:

n Albuquerque – Ted Gallegos Community Center, 6900 Gonzales Road SW. Open 2-6 p.m.

n Santa Fe – Santa Fe County Fairgrounds, 3229 Rodeo Road.

n Las Cruces – New Mexico State University, 3305 Williams Ave. (Parking lot #100). Open 2-6 p.m.

n Sunland Park – Sunland Park Casino, 1200 Futurity Drive. Open 2-6 p.m.

n Socorro – Socorro Youth Center, 1002 Ake Ave. Open 1-5 p.m.

Meanwhile, the 23 deaths related to COVID-19 reported Friday brought the state’s virus death toll to 1,325. More than 20% of those deaths have occurred this month.

Many of those who have died were elderly New Mexicans with underlying health issues, though there have also been younger victims – including two women in their 40s from Sandoval County whose deaths were announced Friday.

Lujan Grisham and other state officials also issued a public health guidance for Thanksgiving on Friday, imploring New Mexicans to stay home and not to gather with non-household members.

The guidance, which is not an official order, also urged state residents to limit their trips to grocery stores and support local businesses by ordering food takeout or delivery.

“Let me be very clear: A Thanksgiving gathering this year may very well lead to a funeral,” Lujan Grisham said in a statement. “The virus is at large. Know the risks and respect them.”

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