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ARTESIA — As the number of COVID-19 cases increases rapidly in Eddy County, Artesia General Hospital is informing residents that their most effective defense is the COVID-19 vaccine.

“Unfortunately, Eddy County represents one of the state’s highest resurgences in COVID-19 cases with positivity rate of 15.76%,” AGH wrote in a release issued Thursday. “Consequently, Artesia General Hospital is caring for a rising number of critically ill patients, and nearby healthcare facilities are exceeding capacity.”

On Thursday, Eddy logged 61 new cases of COVID-19 and the death of a male in his 30s. Of those 61 cases, 45 were listed in Carlsbad’s zip code.

The current vaccine rate in Eddy County, according to the New Mexico Department of Health, is 41.1% – the fourth-lowest of the state’s 33 counties.

“If you haven’t been vaccinated, it is not too late!,” AGH wrote. “Appointments can be scheduled through the New Mexico Department of Health at the location of your choice. Visit vaccinenm.org for more information.”

Appointments are currently available at AGH each Wednesday. Aug. 11 will be the final date this month, and appointments will resume Wednesday, Sept. 1 after AGH relocates its COVID-19 Vaccine Clinic to Memorial Family Practice.

“Additionally, you should wear a mask when in public, wash your hands frequently, and practice social distancing,” the hospital wrote. “Please protect yourself and those around you from this disease, thereby easing the strain on our essential healthcare resources.”