Home News COVID-19 Situation 6 more COVID-19 deaths reported in NM

6 more COVID-19 deaths reported in NM

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The death toll and infection rate from COVID-19 continued to climb Sunday, as some New Mexicans ventured out to church parking lots for drive-in religious services and communion despite new restrictions on mass gatherings for houses of worship.

State officials Sunday reported six more fatalities and 74 additional COVID-19 infections in New Mexico. The new figures bring the overall death toll from the virus in New Mexico to 26 and the total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases to 1,245, according to a press release from the New Mexico Department of Health.

No new infections were reported in Chaves County, where a total of 19 positive tests results for the virus have been reported over the past month.

The deaths reported Sunday include two women and a man, all in their 90s, from Bernalillo County, a woman in her 70s from Cibola County, a man in his 50s from Dona Ana County who had been hospitalized, and a woman in her 90s from San Juan County who had been hospitalized.

The individuals from Bernalillo and Cibola counties all are reported as having had underlying medical conditions.

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According to the press release, the new infections by county include: 18 in Bernalillo County, one in Curry County, one in Dona Ana County, one in Eddy County, one in Grant County, one in Los Alamos County, four in McKinley County, one in Otero County, 38 in Sandoval County, two in San Juan County, one in Santa Fe County, one in Socorro County, one in Torrance County and three in Valencia County.

The figures reported Saturday were corrected after it was found two positive test results for the virus in Sandoval County and one case in Dona Ana County had each been counted twice.

County totals of positive results are subject to change after further investigation and determination of residency of those found to have contracted COVID-19, the release states.

State officials also reported that 80 individuals as of Sunday were hospitalized with COVID-19.

In all, 295 people as of Sunday had been designated by the Department of Health as having recovered from COVID-19.

So far, New Mexico has administered 30,515 tests for COVID-19, according to the New Mexico Department of Health’s Coronavirus update webpage.

Public health orders restricting public gatherings of five or more people became a flashpoint Saturday when Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham announced the order had been extended to apply to houses of worship and religious gatherings. Before the amended order was released Saturday, houses of worship were exempt from the limitation.

Most churches, synagogues and other houses of worship suspended in-person services weeks ago, though many have since livestreamed them or conducted parking lot services, an outdoor service in which parishioners take part while seated in their vehicles.

Saturday’s expanded order though does not prohibit houses of worship from livestreaming or transmitting their services through audiovisual means.

In a statement announcing the expansion of the order Lujan Grisham said the measure is necessary to curtail the spread of COVID-19.

“I understand the tremendous social and spiritual burden this places on New Mexicans, but ultimately we must do everything we can to limit the spread of COVID-19 including being absolutely clear that mass gatherings of any type are not permitted within houses of worship,” she said in the press release.

New Mexico Republicans decried expansion of the order. New Mexico state Rep. Rod Montoya, R-Farmington, in a statement posted on the New Mexico House GOP Facebook page late Saturday, called the decision egregious.

He said that by eliminating the faith exemption on mass gatherings churches will be unable to livestream or broadcast their services because it often requires more than five people in a setting to do so.

“It is simply impossible for churches to produce an online service without having more than five people in the room,” Montoya said in the statement.

Some faith leaders also criticized the decision. Jason Perry, pastor at New Hope Baptist Church in Artesia, had scheduled a parking lot service for Easter Sunday. He said Saturday that he planned to continue to do so regardless of the order.

“I’m not changing my plans for tomorrow,” Perry said.

He added that he has reached out to attorneys and state legislators to fight the decision, arguing the drive-in services are safe and do observe social distancing rules.

“My people have 100% less chance getting COVID-19 at a drive-in service than (they do) going to buy a gallon of milk at Walmart,” Perry said.

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