NM reports girl under 10 among COVID deaths

A memorial featuring paper butterflies is displayed at the Santa Fe railyard last week. Installed by the Interfaith Leadership Alliance of Santa Fe, the butterflies represent the more than 4,000 coronavirus-related deaths in New Mexico. (Eddie Moore/Albuquerque Journal)

Copyright © 2021 Albuquerque Journal

SANTA FE – New Mexico’s coronavirus death toll now includes a child under 10.

The Department of Health on Tuesday reported what may be the state’s youngest victim of the pandemic so far – a Doña Ana County girl who was 9 or younger.

She is one of just a handful of pediatric deaths related to COVID-19 in New Mexico.

The state last fall reported the deaths of a teenage girl in Eddy County and a 12-year-old boy from Albuquerque. An individual under 17 also died in May, according to state coronavirus records.

The girl whose death was reported Tuesday had underlying health conditions, and she had been hospitalized. But the Department of Health didn’t release other details, citing health privacy regulations.

New Mexico’s official tally of virus-related deaths now stands at 4,330 residents, including four recent fatalities reported Tuesday. The other three deaths were adults in their 60s and 80s, according to the Department of Health.

Most of the state’s COVID-19 victims have been older adults. Through last week, individuals 75 and older made up 47% of the virus-related deaths reported by the state.

The Doña Ana County child’s death comes as new coronavirus cases in New Mexico fall to their lowest level since the early weeks of the pandemic last year.

The state now calculates the average number of new cases a day at 76 – the smallest total since April 6, 2020, and a 60% drop over the last month.

Vaccinations have flattened out but continue to inch toward 60%, a goal set by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham.

The Department of Health reported just 1,500 more residents 16 and older had completed their shots in Tuesday’s update, pushing the percentage of adults vaccinated to 59.9%.

About 18% of New Mexicans age 12 to 15 have completed their shots. Children 11 and under aren’t eligible for the vaccines yet.

New Mexico has launched a host of incentives – including a lottery that will culminate in a $5 million award in August – to encourage people to get vaccinated.

The state has already awarded $250,000 to the first four winners of the sweepstakes – one for each public health region in New Mexico. The smaller awards will continue throughout July.

The winners announced Tuesday were Ruth Meilstrup, 72, of Santa Fe; Phillip Perez, 53, of Albuquerque; Linda Tobkin, 68, of Ruidoso; and Taylor Brooke Provencio, 23, of Chamberino.

Even as new vaccinations slow, the number of new infections has continued to fall, dipping to just a fraction of the peak in New Mexico. The state, for example, was reporting over 2,100 cases a day in late November.

The decline isn’t just a result of less testing. The share of coronavirus tests that come back positive is at 2% – among the lowest levels reported in the pandemic.

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