Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal
SANTA FE – New Mexico has now recorded more than 2,000 coronavirus deaths – a total that seemed almost unimaginable just nine months ago, when the first infections arrived.
The state reported 28 more fatalities Tuesday, pushing its official count to 2,006 deaths.
It wasn’t even an above-average figure. New Mexico has averaged 31 deaths related to the coronavirus each day over the past week.
Tuesday’s victims included eight residents of Bernalillo County. The dead came from about a dozen counties – touching almost every region of the state – and they ranged in age from their 30s to their 80s.
Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said the state had reached a “heartbreaking threshold.”
“Every New Mexican taken too soon by this terrible virus was loved and appreciated, and together we mourn their loss,” she said on Twitter. “We each have a role to play in slowing the spread and saving lives.”
New Mexico raced from 1,000 fatalities to 2,000 in just seven weeks.
It took seven months, by contrast, for New Mexico to record its first 1,000 coronavirus deaths, a slow and steady drip of fatalities each day from spring through fall.
The next thousand deaths could come quickly. A forecast by Los Alamos National Laboratory estimates New Mexico will reach 3,000 virus fatalities by late January. A projection by the University of Washington suggests 3,000 deaths by the middle of next month.
But there’s a glimmer of good news.
New Mexico has averaged 1,624 new COVID-19 cases a day over the past week – a 39% drop since its peak in late November, just before Thanksgiving.
On Tuesday, the state reported 1,275 new virus cases.
Hospitalizations remain high – at 865 virus patients in hospitals throughout the state Tuesday. It’s five more patients than Monday, but 9% under the state’s peak of 947 hospitalizations Dec. 3.
The share of tests that come back positive stands at 13.5% over the past two weeks, well above the state’s reopening target of 5%.
New Mexico is set to update its county-level health restrictions on Wednesday. Lujan Grisham said last week that several more counties might reach the 5% test-positivity goal – a statistical target that would allow them to reopen indoor restaurant dining at partial capacity.
Just one community – San Miguel County, east of Santa Fe – is now in the yellow tier, which loosens some restrictions and allows indoor restaurant seating at 25% capacity. The rest of the state is in the red, the most stringent category.
New Mexico updates its color-coded map of health restrictions on Wednesday every two weeks.
COVID-19 has emerged as one of the state’s leading causes of death. In the nine months since New Mexico’s first emergency health order, COVID-19 already has been listed as the underlying cause of death on death certificates more often than strokes, diabetes or Alzheimer’s were in all of 2018.
New Mexico’s coronavirus dead are disproportionately older adults, Native American and male. According to the most recent mortality report released by the Department of Health:
• Almost 70% of the people who died were 65 or older.
• About 56% of the victims were male.
• About 35% of the deaths were Native Americans, who make up just 11% of the population as a whole.
• High blood pressure, diabetes and heart disease are the most common preexisting conditions among the victims.
• McKinley County – home to Gallup, in western New Mexico – has been the hardest hit on a per-person basis. San Juan, Cibola and Socorro counties also have high per-capita death rates from the virus.