LAS CRUCES, New Mexico -- Southern New Mexico's Doña Ana, Otero and Luna counties were responsible for six of the state's 14 additional coronavirus deaths on Wednesday, while Doña Ana also reported a record 311 new virus cases among New Mexico's 1,500 daily count.
The 7-day rolling average of daily deaths linked to Covid-19 in New Mexico has risen over the past two weeks from 5.9 deaths per day to 13.4 deaths per day.
The half-dozen latest fatalities in the three southern counties included:
- A man in his 60s who was a resident of the Calibre Sagecrest Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Las Cruces.
- A man in his 70s from Doña Ana County who was hospitalized.
- A woman in her 90s who was a resident of the Adobe Assisted Living facility in Las Cruces.
- A man in his 80s from Luna County who was hospitalized.
- Two men in their 70s from Otero County; both were hospitalized.
Health officials said Wednesday's deaths took the state's fatality toll to 1,158, with Doña Ana County's toll rising to 115 - with 42 of those occurring in within the past 13 days. Otero County's death count is now at 19, while Luna County's has reached 17.
In addition to the triple-digit high in new cases reported Wednesday among Doña Ana residents, there were also 37 new infections among inmates at the Southern New Mexico Correctional Facility in the county for a total of 93 active cases there.
The total number of infections throughout the pandemic in New Mexico now stands at 59,034, with 8,960 of those being tallied from Doña Ana County.
The latest numbers released by the state came as Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham announced she is tapping a public health expert from the University of New Mexico to lead the state Health Department amid the surging rates of virus infection and hospitalizations.
Physician Tracie Collins was appointed Wednesday to lead the agency that is a cornerstone of the New Mexico's response to Covid-19, starting in mid-December.
Collins, who has guided virus-testing and tracing protocols at the state's flagship university, said her work as health secretary will involve helping people protect each other from Covid-19 in private settings amid indications that the virus is spreading at social and family gatherings that are beyond the direct reach of emergency health orders.
“We really have to make sure that we’re working with our communities so that people understand what their individual responsibilities are to contain this virus and make really good decisions, limiting the amount of people they are hanging out with, making sure that they’re adhering to the recommendations,” Collins said. “We’re in Covid fatigue, but we’ve got to hang on until we can get the vaccine.”
The governor, who previously served as health secretary, said that she chose Collins based on the need for “experienced and compassionate public health leadership.”
Below you can see county-by-county data for virus cases and deaths across New Mexico. The data comes from Johns Hopkins University, so the numbers may sometimes vary a bit from what's reported by the state health department. (The Associated Press contributed to this report.)