COVID-19 cases continue to grow around the state

For 11 straight days, New Mexico health officials have reported more than 200 cases of COVID-19. The New Mexico Department of Health reported on Sunday the state has 262 new cases with Bernalillo County reporting nearly half of that at 111 additional cases. The other counties consistently reporting double digit new cases are Doña Ana, at 32; San Juan with 24; and McKinley with 20. Sandoval County, just north of Bernalillo County, also reported double digit numbers Sunday with 17. The new cases brought the state’s total to 15,028.

State not releasing COVID-19 numbers for county jails

As COVID-19 numbers continue to rise within state-run detention centers across New Mexico, namely in Otero County, the numbers for county jails often go overlooked by the general public. 

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s office reports the number of positive cases within state and federal detention centers daily. Her office also includes the number of congregate care facilities that have seen positive tests in the last 28 days. But those daily reports do not include any information on the roughly half a dozen county jails around the state. 

According to the state Department of Health, those numbers are purposefully left out of daily reports because state officials think they would add more confusion than clarification. 

During a news conference on Wednesday, NM Political Report asked Lujan Grisham why the state was not releasing COVID-19 numbers for county detention centers. She said even though the state is collecting those numbers they are not released in daily updates from her office. Without clarifying the reason for not including those numbers in the updates, she said the data is there. 

“We know by zip code, we know by, often, occupation, we know by correctional facility, we know whether it’s staff or it’s an inmate, whether in a nursing home, whether it’s staff or a resident, we are and we continue to refine getting the data,” Lujan Grisham said. 

Immediately after the news conference, NM Political Report requested that data from Lujan Grisham’s office, but was told by a DOH spokesman that any request for county detention center data would need to be requested from the counties themselves. 

David Morgan, a spokesman for DOH, said the information would have to come from the counties that oversee each regional detention center and would likely require an official records request pursuant to the state’s Inspection of Public Records Act (IPRA).

A hospital’s secret coronavirus policy separated Native American mothers from their newborns

Lovelace Women’s Hospital in Albuquerque implemented a secretive policy in recent months to conduct special coronavirus screenings for pregnant women, based on whether they appeared to be Native American, even if they had no symptoms or were otherwise at low risk for the disease, according to clinicians.

The hospital screens all arriving patients for COVID-19 with temperature checks and asks them whether they’ve been in contact with people who have the illness. But for soon-to-be moms who appeared to be Native American, there was an additional step, according to clinicians interviewed on the condition they not be named.

‘We’re sitting ducks.’ As coronavirus swept through a halfway house, state officials reported nothing.

ALBUQUERQUE — At least 25 residents of one of New Mexico’s largest halfway houses have tested positive for COVID-19. The outbreak happened at Diersen Charities in Albuquerque, which houses inmates on their way out of the federal prison system and some who are on federal probation. The facility has enough beds to accommodate more than 100 men and women. “We’re sitting ducks,” said one resident, who declined to give his name for fear of retaliation. 

This story originally appeared at Searchlight New Mexico and is republished with permission. He described a living situation not unlike a prison, with dozens of metal-frame bunk beds stacked a few feet apart.

97 new test positive cases of COVID-19; total nears 6,000

The state Department of Health announced New Mexico has 97 additional test positive cases of COVID-19 and six additional related deaths. Of the 97 new cases, 61 were in one of three counties: McKinley, Sandoval and San Juan. Those three counties are home to some of New Mexico’s tribal lands, which have been hit hard by the pandemic.The state said the results were partial because of a technical problem with private labs and that full results would be available on Monday. Sunday’s announcement brought the total number of positive tests in New Mexico 5,938 test positive cases and 265 COVID-19-related deaths.The state has processed 133,253 tests, according to the New Mexico DOH website. That is an increase of 4,679 since Saturday.

One in nearly four-thousand: NM prison COVID-19 testing shows strikingly low positive rate

New Mexico appears to have bucked another national trend. Just one of the nearly 4,000 inmates and staff tested in the state’s 11 prisons is positive for COVID-19, the respiratory illness caused by the new coronavirus, according to results released by the state Corrections Department on Friday. The lone positive result, according to a news release from department spokesman Eric Harrison, was for a correctional officer at the Otero County Prison Facility in Chaparral, near the U.S. border with Mexico. The officer is now in self-quarantine at home, Harrison’s release said. Across the nation, prisons and jails have emerged as hotspots for COVID-19, with incarcerated populations and those who work to supervise them testing positive at alarmingly high rates in some places. 

Many inmates suffer from pre-existing health conditions that make them particularly susceptible to the often fatal consequences of COVID-19, leaving prisons with some of the most vulnerable populations in the U.S. as the pandemic continues its march.

COVID-19 has spread to most New Mexico tribes

While Navajo people represent the worst hit by COVID-19 in absolute numbers — Navajos represent 45% of all New Mexico’s positive cases – two Pueblo communities are being hit harder, by percentage of their population, according to data provided by state health officials. 

About 11% of Zia Pueblo and 4% of San Felipe members have contracted the virus compared to about 2% of Navajo Nation members who live in New Mexico. The New Mexico Department of Health provided New Mexico In Depth a detailed breakdown of the number of positive cases by tribal affiliation through Monday. Those numbers show that the great majority of tribes in the state have cases of COVID-19. The New Mexico Department of Health provided this chart to New Mexico In Depth on Monday, May 11, showing the tribal affiliation of Native American people in New Mexico who have contracted COVID-19 through Monday. Navajo people represented 2,194 of the state’s 5,069 cases on Monday. Reported separately were non-contiguous Navajo chapters.

Northwest NM continues to outpace the rest of the state for COVID-19 cases

With more than twice as many reported cases of COVID-19 in McKinley County than the more populated Bernalillo County, the state Department of Health announced 107 new test positive cases across the state of COVID-19 Tuesday. There are six new deaths related to the respiratory disease. The numbers released Tuesday brings the state to 4,138 cases of the disease and 162 total deaths related to the virus. There are 964 COVID-19 cases designated as recovered by the state’s DOH. There are 48 patients on ventilators and 178 who have been hospitalized, according to DOH.

State to open COVID-19 alternative care facility in Gallup

As COVID-19 cases in McKinley County continue to skyrocket, the state announced that its alternative care facility in Gallup will accept its first patients on Saturday. The facility, in a converted high school gymnasium, will be able to handle 60 patients. As of the numbers on Thursday, the state has found 573 cases in McKinley County, the second-most in the state, only behind Bernalillo County which has nearly ten times the population of the largely rural western New Mexico county. According to the Albuquerque Journal, this translates to 777.86 infections per 100,000 residents. The Navajo Nation, which includes portions of McKinley County, is one of the hardest-hit parts of the country when it comes to COVID-19 infections.

Sixth person in NM with coronavirus died; 48 new positive tests

The state announced Wednesday a sixth person with COVID-19 died in the state, and that an additional 48 people tested positive for the disease. Update (4/2/2020): DOH: Seventh COVID-19 patient in NM dies; total positive cases in state now over 400

The state Department of Health said that the person who died was a woman in her 90s from Sandoval County. She had underlying medical conditions and died on Tuesday. She is the first person to die with COVID-19 in Sandoval County. The 48 new positive tests bring the state’s total to 363 positive tests.