SANTA FE – Eighteen residents at a retirement facility in New Mexico’s most populous city have tested positive for the coronavirus, bringing the state’s total to nearly 500 cases, officials announced Friday.
Mark DiMenna, deputy director of Albuquerque’s Environmental Health Department, confirmed the positive tests for COVID-19 a day after the first infection turned up at La Vida Llena.
The retirement community has independent living facilities as well as assisted living residents. It was unclear which residents were affected.
New Mexico suspended public access to assisted living facilities, with exceptions for end-of-life hospice care, shortly after the first coronavirus in the state was detected in mid-March. People over the age of 60 are more vulnerable to severe effects of the contagion, according to medical experts.
Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, who says she halted in-person visits to her own mother at an assisted living facility as a precaution, said during an online update Friday that a total of 495 cases have been confirmed as testing ramps up. She said 10 people have died and another 41 remain hospitalized.
Representatives for La Vida Llena had no immediate comment.
For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death.
In other developments:
— A western New Mexico hotel that once hosted John Wayne and future President Ronald Reagan will use one of its buildings to house homeless patients.
The Gallup Independent reported that El Rancho Hotel agreed this week to offer its space if health care workers needed places for critical patients affected by COVID-19.
El Rancho Hotel officials said patients will be placed in a separate building across the parking lot from the central hotel. The building has enough space for up to 20 homeless people.
— The New Mexico Department of Transportation and the Archdiocese of Santa Fe on Friday urged Catholics to stay home during Holy Week and to refrain from participating in annual pilgrimages that have been canceled.
“In unity with all Christians, we call on the faithful to make home the holy place for the sake of all families during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Archbishop John Wester said. “Stay home. By practicing social distancing, together we can save lives.”