40 COVID-19 deaths set another record as tiered restrictions plan begins - Albuquerque Journal

40 COVID-19 deaths set another record as tiered restrictions plan begins

New Mexico's tiered restrictions map released on Dec. 2, 2020, shows all but one county in the state at the most restrictive level. (Source: NMDOH)
New Mexico’s tiered restrictions map released on Dec. 2, 2020, shows all but one county in the state at the most restrictive level. (Source: NMDOH)

Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal

SANTA FE – New Mexico burst past its daily record for COVID-19 deaths Wednesday – the same day it launched a new strategy intended to help contain the disease.

The state Department of Health on Wednesday implemented its new color-coded tiers of business restrictions, which are set by county. Just one community – San Miguel County, home to Las Vegas – reached the statistical targets required to allow limited indoor restaurant dining.

It was a dark day otherwise.

The state reported 40 additional coronavirus deaths, five more than the previous high. New Mexico also set a record for COVID-19 hospitalizations and became the 37th state to record at least 100,000 cases during the pandemic.

The grim numbers came as New Mexico established the new county-by-county approach for slowing the spread of the virus.

The program took effect Wednesday with nearly the entire state at the red level, the most stringent of New Mexico’s new three-tiered system.

Even so, New Mexicans will have some relaxed health regulations after a two-week order that shut down much of the state’s in-person business activity.

Ski areas, golf courses, gyms, salons and most other businesses can operate at 25% capacity in red counties, and restaurants can allow outdoor dining, also at partial capacity.

San Miguel County – a large, mostly rural county east of Santa Fe – was cleared for the yellow tier, the middle step in the red-to-green system. Restaurants in the county can offer indoor dining at 25% capacity.

‘Aggressive’ action

The move to yellow comes after Las Vegas, the county seat, combated the virus with a 10 p.m. curfew. The city also adopted a mask mandate before the state as a whole.

Las Vegas Mayor Louie Trujillo said the city and county governments have worked together to enforce public health rules and promote testing.

“We were very aggressive,” Trujillo said in an interview.

The yellow designation will be a source of pride for the community, he said, but residents should keep pushing toward the goal of becoming the first county to reach green, the least restrictive tier.

To move out of red, a county must meet at least one of two standards: either a COVID-19 test positivity rate of 5% or less, or fewer than eight new cases a day per 100,000 people.

Reaching both targets puts a county in the green. Reaching just one is enough to move into yellow.

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham established the tiered system Wednesday as New Mexico battles one of the worst COVID-19 outbreaks in the country.

The state reported 40 additional deaths related to coronavirus Wednesday – the highest single-day total of the pandemic so far. The statewide death toll now stands at 1,629.

“We cannot become numb to this tragedy,” Lujan Grisham said in a written statement. “Families all across our state are grappling with unfathomable grief. Each of these New Mexicans was loved. Each is mourned with our whole hearts.”

The number of COVID-19 patients in New Mexico hospitals also set a record Wednesday, with 940 hospitalizations, up from the record of 919, set Sunday.

Still, the day’s numbers offered a hint of optimism. The state reported 1,549 new cases of the virus, pulling the seven-day rolling average down to its lowest point since Nov. 18.

The share of tests that come back positive also fell to under 15% in the most recent seven-day period, down from 24% at one point last week.

The state has now recorded 100,963 cases of COVID-19 since the pandemic reached New Mexico in mid-March.

Saliva testing

The Department of Health also announced the opening of new testing sites that use saliva – not a nasal swab – to check for the virus.

Curative, a California research company, established the tests.

Visit www.curative.com to register for the test and check the days and times available.

In addition to Balloon Fiesta Park, the new test sites are:

• Judy Nelson Elementary School, 40 CR 6580, Kirtland, 87417, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

• Northern New Mexico College, 921 N. Paseo De Oñate, east entrance off Railroad Avenue, Española, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

• Daniel Fernandez Park, 1103 NM 314, Los Lunas, 87031, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

• Rio Rancho High School, 301 Loma Colorado NE, Rio Rancho, 87124, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

• Starting Friday, Starmax, 333 N. Country Club, Deming, 88030, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

New approach

The state’s color-coded map for county restrictions will be updated every other Wednesday. The county-level strategy is a shift from the statewide approach Lujan Grisham pursued earlier in the pandemic.

In a written statement, Lujan Grisham recognized San Miguel County as an example of how local leaders can help limit the spread of COVID-19. The county-level targets, she said, provide an incentive for communities to work together to boost testing and limit the spread of the disease.

“This virus can indeed be beaten back through our day-to-day decisions and with assistance and leadership at the local level,” Lujan Grisham said. The “state’s restrictions and guidelines are merely the floor, not the ceiling, of what local communities can do to keep New Mexicans safe.”

Republican leaders and other critics say the statistical benchmarks required to move out of the red level are too strict and could take months for counties to meet.

Before Wednesday’s map update, Los Alamos was expected to be the only county to reach the yellow tier, based on data from a two-week period in November. But it slipped out of compliance when more recent data was calculated.

San Miguel County, by contrast, reached the yellow tier after earlier data showed it was likely to start in the red.

Here’s a look at where some communities stand:

• San Miguel County hit the 5% positivity rate in the final two weeks of November, putting it in the yellow tier. Los Alamos was at 6%.

• Bernalillo County, New Mexico’s largest county, had a positivity rate of 19% and 103 cases per 100,000 people. Santa Fe County was slightly lower, at 16% and 90 cases.

• Besides Los Alamos, at least two counties had positivity rates of 10% or less. Grant County, which includes Silver City, was at 8%, and Mora County was at 10%.

Statewide, about 15% of New Mexico’s coronavirus tests come back positive, and there are about 71 new cases a day per 100,000 population.

Home » Journal North » Journal North Recent News » 40 COVID-19 deaths set another record as tiered restrictions plan begins

Insert Question Legislature form in Legis only stories

Albuquerque Journal and its reporters are committed to telling the stories of our community.

• Do you have a question you want someone to try to answer for you? Do you have a bright spot you want to share?
   We want to hear from you. Please email yourstory@abqjournal.com

taboola desktop

ABQjournal can get you answers in all pages


Questions about the Legislature?
Albuquerque Journal can get you answers
Email addresses are used solely for verification and to speed the verification process for repeat questioners.
Ted Kaczynski, known as the Unabomber for years of ...
ABQnews Seeker
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Theodore 'Ted' Kaczynski, ... WASHINGTON (AP) -- Theodore 'Ted' Kaczynski, the Harvard-educated mathematician who retreated to a dingy shack in the Montana wilderness and ran a 17-year bombing ...
Photos from the funeral for Archbishop Emeritus Michael Sheehan
ABQnews Seeker
Meet the former Alamogordo resident making a big impact ...
ABQnews Seeker
He grew up in New Mexico, ... He grew up in New Mexico, so it was no surprise Houston Astros prospect Quincy Hamilton looked at home in Isotopes Park this week.
Five factors to consider as United takes "professional approach" ...
ABQnews Seeker
Save the long-odds conversation for someone ... Save the long-odds conversation for someone else. United's players and coaches don't want to hear it.
UNM's Museum of Southwestern Biology to display collections at ...
ABQnews Seeker
From 4-9 p.m. Wednesday, June 14, ... From 4-9 p.m. Wednesday, June 14, the public is invited to "Evolution Revealed: An Open Collections Event."
Hundreds pack Santa Fe cathedral for Archbishop Sheehan’s funeral ...
ABQnews Seeker
Achbishop Emeritus Michael J. Sheehan died ... Achbishop Emeritus Michael J. Sheehan died June 3 at age 83. Here's how he was remembered.
Barelas Park reopens after nearly $2 million renovation
ABQnews Seeker
Barelas Park reopened to the public ... Barelas Park reopened to the public Wednesday with many new features.
New Mexico State Police officer accused of sexually assaulting ...
ABQnews Seeker
A State Police officer was arrested ... A State Police officer was arrested Friday in the alleged sexual assault of a 20-year-old woman while the two were on a New Mexico ...
Solomon Peña to remain in custody, judge rules
ABQnews Seeker
A judge said he could find ... A judge said he could find no conditions of release that would reasonably ensure the safety of the community, despite a defense attorney's contention ...