PUBLIC EDUCATION DEPARTMENT NEWS
Beginning tomorrow, the Public Education Department will issue a weekly summary of New Mexico public schools with two or more Rapid Responses for COVID-19 cases in the previous 14 days in an effort to help families and communities track outbreaks in their schools.
The report will be a summary of data compiled and reported daily by the state Environment Department, which issues a Watchlist of schools and businesses with two or more Rapid Responses within 14 days and a Closure List of those with four or more Rapid Responses in 14 days.
The PED’s weekly report, which will be posted on the department’s website each Friday, will summarize that data for that week.
“The health and safety of our students and staff remains a paramount concern to the Public Education Department, and staying safe means having the best information available on COVID-19 outbreaks,” PED Secretary Ryan Stewart said. “We think this weekly report will fill a gap in existing information because it will focus expressly on pre-K-12 public schools.”
The weekly report replaces a daily COVID case report that the PED suspended Nov. 1 because the data collection and vetting did not align with what the Department of Health and Environment Department were doing. The daily report indicated, by county, the number of COVID-19 cases among students and staff as reported directly to PED.
With virus cases exploding across the state, the Environment Department last month rolled out a two-step process that focuses on clusters of cases that suggest an outbreak. The process begins by placing a business on a COVID-19 Watchlist if it has two or more rapid responses in a 14-day period. If the number of rapid responses reaches four in a 14-day period, the building, facility or institution must close. Public schools were integrated into the two-step process beginning last week.
The COVID-19 Watchlist is meant to ensure timely and transparent public notification so individuals can make informed decisions about their daily routines and engagements. Additionally, it helps state and local regulatory agencies evaluate whether employers are complying with state public health orders and COVID-safe practices.
A Rapid Response is a series of interventions designed to prevent COVID-19 spread, beginning when the New Mexico Department of Health notifies a child care provider, school, college or university that an employee or student has a confirmed positive case and was on campus/in the facility during the infectious period.
If a public school is required to close because it has four or more Rapid Responses in a 14-day period, it must remain in remote-only learning mode until its county is in the green zone — a Department of Health distinction signifying acceptable control of the virus.
For pre-K-12 schools under PED jurisdiction, only the individual school that reached the four-14 threshold would be required to return to remote learning. That means a school district could have one school closed for in-person learning, another on the Watchlist, and others with no impact.