Second Doña Ana County death reported as data shows 61% of county’s COVID-19 cases in El Paso suburbs

Las Cruces News

DONA ANA CO., NM (KTSM) — New Mexico State Health officials say a man from Doña Ana County is the second person to die from COVID-19 in the county. However, he wasn’t living in Doña Ana County at the time of his death.

According to health officials, the man in his 60s was a patient at Central Desert Behavioral Health in Albuquerque. He had underlying medical conditions and was hospitalized at the time of his death, officials said.

In addition to the man’s death, Doña Ana County also added six new positive COVID-19 cases Saturday, bringing the total to 153 county-wide. Doña Ana County ended the week with 43 new cases, matching the exact total from last week, indicating a flattening of new cases in the area.

Otero County also recorded a new case Saturday, marking their 6th positive COVID-19 case.

Statewide, 220 new positive COVID-19 cases were added Saturday, including substantial increases in Bernalillo, McKinley, and San Juan Counties. Eight deaths were reported, including the man from Doña Ana County. Five of Saturday’s eight deaths were residents of residential facilities statewide.

The number of positive COVID-19 cases in the State of New Mexico now stands at 3,732 with 139 deaths.

The latest data from the New Mexico Department of Public Health shows 77 of the 127 zip code documented positive COVID-19 cases (60.6%) in Doña Ana County are from the four communities directly surrounding the City of El Paso. They include Chaparral (27), Sunland Park (16), Santa Teresa (8), and Anthony (26).

New Mexico releases information daily regarding residential facilities throughout the state that have known positive COVID-19 cases. Some confusion set in Friday, when Haciendas of Grace Village in Las Cruces appeared on the list.

Haciendas of Grace Village CEO, Gary Coppedge, released a statement saying an employee tested positive for the virus, but was asymptomatic. He urged caution, stating there was a possibility for a false-positive result and noted the employee and all residents were being retested. Later Friday evening an update was sent stating the employee’s re-test appeared negative and the nursing facility was given a clean bill of health by New Mexico State health officials.

The asymptomatic positive test result was thanks to New Mexico’s aggressive proactive testing for frontline healthcare workers and other essential employees who may have extensive contact with the public or vulnerable populations.

As of Saturday New Mexico reported 25 facilities statewide with at least one known case of the virus including Haciendas of Grace Village, despite their new clean bill of health.

La Vida Llena in Albuquerque, Uptown Genesis in Albuquerque, Life Care Center in Farmington, and Cedar Ridge in Farmington have tallied multiple deaths associated with COVID-19 from their facilities.

Friday, Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham invoked the state’s Riot Control Act in McKinley County in response to a request made by the outgoing Mayor Jackie McKinney and new Mayor Louis Bonaguidi in response to the rapid spread of COVID-19 in the community.

According to the Governor’s office, local leadership requested a full lockdown of Gallup. All roads into the small town of approximately 22,000 people are closed. Essential businesses in Gallup are authorized to operate between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. daily and vehicles are only authorized to have a maximum of two people inside.

Gallup Police, McKinley County Sheriff’s Department, New Mexico State Police, New Mexico Department of Transportation, and New Mexico National Guard will partner to enforce the emergency order and road closures.

McKinley County is the hardest hit county in New Mexico by population, with 1,064 COVID-19 cases reported as of Friday. The county accounts for more than 30 percent of the state’s positive virus cases and the highest number of cases reported in any county, including more populated counties around Albuquerque, Santa Fe, and Las Cruces. It’s estimated 1.5% of the entire county is now infected with the virus.

“I recognize this request is unusual and constitutes a drastic measure, and the emergency powers set out under the Riot Control Act should be invoked sparingly,” said Mayor Bonaguidi. “However, the COVID-19 outbreak in the city of Gallup is a crisis of the highest order. Immediate action is necessary.”

Gallup is home to many Navajo Nation residents who have been hit especially hard by the virus. Many, including Navajo Nation and State leaders from Arizona and New Mexico, have been sounding alarm bells in order to save the elders residing on the reservation.

“We fully support the proactive measures implemented by Governor Lujan Grisham, at the request of the City of Gallup,” said Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez. “We have many members of the Navajo Nation that reside in Gallup and many that travel in the area and their health and safety is always our top priority.” 

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