COVID-19 case numbers continue to decline in New Mexico

The worst numbers of weekly outbreaks on a per-person basis were in Chaves, Cibola and San Juan counties

Mike Stucka

New Mexico reported far fewer coronavirus cases in the week ending Saturday, adding 8,296 new cases. That's down 21.5% from the previous week's toll of 10,572 new cases of the virus that causes COVID-19.

New Mexico ranked No. 19 among the states where coronavirus was spreading the fastest on a per-person basis, a USA TODAY Network analysis of Johns Hopkins University data shows. In the latest week the United States added 1,327,043 reported cases of coronavirus, a decrease of -12.3% from the week before. Across the country, 6 states had more cases in the latest week than they did in the week before.

Testing has changed around the holidays, making comparisons difficult. Labs and testing sites closed. People traveled or prepared for the holidays instead of getting tested. Some counties and states didn't report data as quickly.

Across New Mexico, cases fell in 23 counties, with the best declines in Bernalillo, Sandoval and McKinley counties.

>> See how your community has fared with recent coronavirus cases

The share of New Mexico test results that came back positive was 8.2% in the latest week, compared with 10.2% in the week before, a USA TODAY Network analysis of COVID Tracking Project data shows. In the latest week, 100,738 tests were administered; a week earlier, that figure was 104,060.

Marcus Appleton, San Juan Regional Medical Center RN/Clinical Educator prepares to administer a dose of the COVID-19 vaccine on Tuesday, Dec. 15.

Experts say it is important to look at the share of tests that come back positive, not just case counts, to get a better idea of whether the rate of new infections is changing or if differences in testing are playing a role.

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The World Health Organization says places should be conducting enough tests to have fewer than 5% coming back positive. Places where the percentage is higher could struggle to complete contact tracing soon enough to prevent spread of the virus.

Within New Mexico, the worst weekly outbreaks on a per-person basis were in Chaves, Cibola and San Juan counties. Adding the most new cases overall were Bernalillo County, with 2,226 cases; Dona Ana County, with 932 cases; and San Juan County, with 906. Weekly case counts rose in nine counties from the previous week. The worst increases from the prior week's pace were in Dona Ana, Chaves and Cibola counties.

Florida Presbyterian Homes CEO Joe Xanthopoulos, dressed as Santa, receives a Pfizer Covid-19 vaccination from Walgreens Pharmacist Ericka Gutierrez at the Florida Presbyterian Homes in Lakeland, Florida, on Tuesday, Dec. 22.

In New Mexico, 161 people were reported dead of COVID-19 in the week ending Saturday. In the week before that, 242 people were reported dead.

A total of 137,226 people in New Mexico have tested positive for the coronavirus since the pandemic began, and 2,316 people have died from the disease, Johns Hopkins University data shows. In the United States 18,982,634 people have tested positive and 331,909 people have died.