Gov. Lujan Grisham addresses new COVID-19 cases, what’s next for New Mexico schools

Coronavirus New Mexico

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – The amount of COVID-19 cases in the state is now at 10.

On Friday, Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham held a press conference talking about the new cases and why the state decided to close schools for three weeks.

According to the state, four of the cases are people’s 50s to 80s in Bernalillo County. They all contracted the virus by being in close household contact with others who had the virus after traveling.

The fourth person is a woman in her 20s in Santa Fe County who recently took a trip to New York. The state said it’s investigating every new case.

“From the 14 days prior to their onset of illness, what did they do? And we usually divide it up by am and pm in order to identify exactly where they were and who they were interacting with,” said Dr. Chad Smelser, with the New Mexico Department of Health.

State officials also elaborated on what lead to the decision to close all K-12 public schools for three weeks. They said it came after concerns from school staff around the state.

“Our leaders in both districts and charter schools, we heard a number of concerns and operational issues from schools that we knew were likely not to have enough staff to make sure that they could effectively and safely run the schools, to parents calling in and saying that they were going to keep their kids home. So, that we’d have more kids falling behind as we continued in the educational process,” said Dr. Ryan Stewart, with New Mexico Public Education Department.

Despite classes being canceled, the state is working to keep other services available for families.

“We’re also working with our Department Of Health partners to keep our school-based health centers open so that we’re still able to provide those services to our students and families in need,” said Dr. Stewart. “And any behavioral health and counseling services that can be done virtually or over the phone.”

The state is also working to still make breakfast and lunch available for students who depend on them. The Governor said the meals should be available at school cafeterias and urges employees to help make this possible.

“Essential staff and workers, we need you to keep coming to work, and they’re the experts. They know how to prepare these meals. They know how to make sure these meals are safe,” said Gov. Lujan Grisham.

For schools who are able, the state is encouraging online learning. For districts with students who do not have equal resources, the state is discouraging continued online courses so kids don’t fall behind.

The state is working to keep school-related childcare facilities open and is encouraging private providers to do the same.

The department is waiving statutory requirements so students will not need to make up the lost classes.

“This is important for a number of reasons, including making sure schools and districts who have access to extended learning programs at the end of the year can continue to be able to do those,” said Dr. Stewart.

Teachers will get paid normally as if there was no closure.

The Governor said handling the virus is a ‘fluid’ situation and a lot is subject to change as information regarding the virus changes day by day.

“Information will change. New Mexicans should expect that we will make decisions as quickly as we can and it will feel difficult,” said Gov. Lujan Grisham.

The state is encouraging everyone to help mitigate the risk of spreading the virus by practicing social distancing.

“We also understand that these are very difficult decisions. The decision to restrict gatherings is hard on businesses, hard on New Mexicans, it’s hard on families,” said Gov. Lujan Grisham.

“This only works if families take this seriously and adopt a principle of social isolation,” said Dr. David Scrace, Secretary of Human Services. “If we close schools and everyone goes to the park and kids are interacting with each other and continue to play and touch each other, that’s not social isolation.”

The state has two hotlines for concerns. For everything health-related, call 1-855-600-3453.

For all concerns not-health related, like school, childcare and job security, call 1-833-551-0518.

Earlier in the week, the state said it had the capacity to test 2,400 people. At the press conference, it could not give an updated number since people are being tested constantly. TriCore Labs will help with testing and had 5,000 tests ready on Thursday. It’s expected to double that testing capacity.

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