By SUSAN MONTOYA BRYAN, Associated Press
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico on Friday marked a grim milestone, as deaths related to the coronavirus topped 1,000.
The statewide toll surpassed the mark with the addition of 13 more deaths, the most in a single day since the pandemic began. They included two women in their 20s and another in her 30s who all had underlying conditions.
The tally came as New Mexico struggles with increasing rates of spread and record daily case totals and hospitalizations. In just a week, the number of deaths in the state jumped by about 43%. Nationally, the U.S. is averaging just over 800 coronavirus deaths a day, up about 14% over the past two weeks.
Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham ordered flags to fly at half-staff starting Monday for a week of mourning. She called it “an unfathomable tragedy,” saying the drumbeat of a few more deaths every day should not diminish the acute feeling of loss.
“Every one of these 1,000 New Mexicans was loved by someone. Every one of these 1,000 lost New Mexicans leaves a hole in a family, a community, our state. I grieve with them. New Mexico grieves with them,” she said in a statement.
On the eve of Halloween, emergency alerts sounded on cellphones across the state: “EXTREME NM virus risk.”
State health officials renewed their pleas that people adhere to the public health order, which calls for residents to stay home whenever possible, limit contact with others and wear face coverings, among other things.
State health officials also have limited indoor dining at restaurants to a fraction of normal capacity to prevent the spread of COVID-19. As restaurants struggle for financial survival, the city of Santa Fe has extended all street- and sidewalk-dining permits for six months while elected leaders in Las Cruces renewed an emergency proclamation related to the pandemic and authorities in Albuquerque vowed to extend their public health order enforcement blitz at least through the weekend.
State officials and administrators from some of the largest hospital systems in New Mexico have been warning that the health care system could be overloaded if the trends continue. They say their COVID-19 units are seeing between three and four times more patients than earlier this year when the state was experiencing its first surge.
Hospital officials in New Mexico said the demographics are different this time around, with more young people being admitted.
While nearly 60% of the deaths in New Mexico have been people over 70, Human Services Secretary Dr. David Scrase noted during a briefing this week that all age groups have been setting new records with regard to daily case totals. On Thursday, the state smashed a previous record, reporting 1,082 cases for the day.
While daily cases were still above 1,000 on Friday, hospitalizations reached another high of 334. State officials say it’s the eighth consecutive day New Mexico has set a record for total COVID-19 hospitalizations.
State data also shows more than 17% of all COVID-19 patients who were hospitalized did not survive and about 10% of the deaths have involved people from 30 to 49, with most having underlying conditions.
Nationally, the number of new daily deaths is less than half of what it was in the spring. Experts say that’s likely because people getting infected now are younger and hospitals are more prepared to handle cases. A better understanding of the disease along with new treatments also is helping doctors keep patients alive.
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