Health officials say New Mexico has 1st coronavirus death

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SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico's has its first coronavirus death.

Health officials said Wednesday the man in his late 70s was hospitalized in Artesia on Sunday and died the same day. The state Health Department said he had multiple underlying health issues and his condition deteriorated rapidly.

Infections have climbed past 100 in the state, with schools shut down and a stay-at-home order in effect.

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said the death marked a tragic day and urged residents to take precautions to limit the spread of the virus and ensure the health care system won't be overwhelmed.

“For anyone in our state who had not yet acknowledged this virus as the urgent public health crisis that it is, who has not accepted the extremely compelling need to stay home, today lays bare the very real, very life-or-death consequences of this disease,” she said.

It was unclear where the man was living before his hospitalization and how he was infected.

The stay-at-home order limits most gatherings to five people and closes nonessential businesses where work can't be performed remotely.

The governor said as more people are tested, the number of infections and deaths will rise.

“Social distancing and isolation is the best tool we have right now," Lujan Grisham said.

Positive tests for infection have been concentrated in population centers including Albuquerque, Santa Fe and the Las Cruces area, with infections confirmed in 14 of the state's 33 counties.

The governor on Wednesday issued two new orders aimed at stretching the limited supplies of protective gear for health care workers. One order prohibits non-essential health services that can be put off for three months without risk to a patient's health. The other prohibits health care providers and wholesale medical suppliers from selling or otherwise distributing personal protective equipment without prior approval from state health officials.

Providers and wholesale medical suppliers also must provide the state with an inventory of their personal protective gear within three days.

The action followed a series of emergency public health orders that have closed down the state's indoor shopping malls, gyms and movie theaters. Officials also have eliminated dine-in service at restaurants, bars and breweries. To prevent hoarding, the state is limiting purchases of over-the-counter medication and sanitary supplies to three items per retail customer.

In another development, the University of New Mexico is postponing its spring commencement previously scheduled for May 16.

President Garnett Stokes will seek student input as she considers when to reschedule the commencement and how it will be conducted, the university said Tuesday.

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