Two residents of an Albuquerque retirement community with an outbreak of the new coronavirus have died from the respiratory illness COVID-19, state health officials said Friday.
The two men — one in his 80s and another in his 90s — were among 19 residents of La Vida Llena and three staff members who tested positive for the coronavirus, according to the state Department of Health. Both of the men who died had underlying medical conditions.
State officials are waiting for the results of hundreds of tests at La Vida Llena and announced they have discovered a COVID-19 case at an undisclosed retirement home in Santa Fe.
News of the deadly outbreak at the retirement community came as the Governor’s Office announced a third new death and 92 newly confirmed cases of the virus — the highest daily count since New Mexico reported its first case last month.
The sharp rise brings the total number of cases in the state to 495. Ten New Mexico residents who have contracted the virus have died.
State Health Secretary Kathy Kunkel said officials are finding community spread of the virus in “in most of the state,” which means it is contracted here rather than during travel to other places.
The Department of Health and the Governor’s Office did not respond to an inquiry about the name of the Santa Fe retirement home where officials said a staff member with the illness had been in contact with residents.
Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said during an afternoon news conference Friday that state officials will be testing everyone at the facility to find out who has COVID-19.
“We don’t want to guess,” Lujan Grisham said.
It is possible the caregiver spread the coronavirus to residents before experiencing symptoms because the incubation period for the virus can last up to 14 days.
As the spread of the virus widens in New Mexico, Lujan Grisham and health officials say the state is more than 1,000 ventilators and thousands of intensive care units short of being ready for a projected peak of between 250,000 and 1.25 million cases of COVID-19.
New Mexico has 471 ventilators in its stockpile and is aggressively pursuing more from private sources.
The state announced four new cases Friday in Santa Fe County, bringing its total to 52 cases. Bernalillo County, the state’s most populous, had 39 new cases and a total of 202.
As of Friday, 41 people were hospitalized with the virus in New Mexico. Thirty-four people had recovered from the virus, according to the Health Department.
Lujan Grisham said she has received permission from President Donald Trump’s administration to mobilize 750 National Guard soldiers to assist in the coronavirus pandemic.
The National Guard might aid in delivering meals, gathering supplies and bringing test samples to labs, the governor said.
But the state might not receive what had been an expected shipment of lifesaving ventilators from the national stockpile, Lujan Grisham said.
The governor acknowledged during the news conference what many governors across the nation are facing: a severe shortage of emergency supplies from the federal government. New Mexico’s shortage comes as it prepares for a possible surge in cases in late April or early May.
Adding to concerns, the state ranks seventh in the nation for diabetes — a condition that puts people at high risk of developing a serious, potentially life-threatening case of COVID-19.
“I’m gonna need at least 1,629 ventilators, and we know that that’s well more than what we have available,” the governor said. “We’re not gonna get that many out of the stockpile.”
The shortage of equipment is one of the foremost reasons her office has been stressing almost daily the importance of staying at home and limiting contact with others as much as possible, Lujan Grisham said.
The shortage of supplies from the federal government also has “created this incredible purchasing competition” between states for supplies, something the governor said is “frankly nefarious.”
U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich, D-N.M., also said earlier this week he does not think the state will see a shipment of ventilators from the federal government, despite a Federal Emergency Management Agency formula allotting a certain amount to each state based on its population.
“I don’t know that we’ll get ventilators. I don’t know that we’ll get many of the things that we were hoping for from the national stockpile,” Heinrich said Thursday.