LAS CRUCES, N.M. (KRQE) – Doña Ana County Sheriff’s Office is operating with a skeleton crew because so many employees are out with COVID-19. To help stop the spread the sheriff is reducing the amount of employees inside the building to eight per day.

Story continues below:

“These are breakthrough cases. These are not people that have not been unvaccinated, these are people who have been vaccinated. They are showing symptoms that are not asymptomatic,” said Doña Ana County Sheriff Kim Stewart.

Since October 31 of this year, up until this week, a total of 17 employees have tested positive for the virus as breakthrough cases. Sheriff Stewart says the uptick in cases began spreading among the criminal investigations unit due to them coming and going from the building.

In order to help mitigate the spread, Stewart took it upon herself and resorted to a phase one approach which had previously been done back in March for a six week period where employees worked from home on a rotating schedule — there were no complaints then.

However, the decision to repeat the COVID mitigation strategy did not sit well with Doña Ana County manager, Fernando Macias, who according to Stewart, claims it is his decision to make. “I was told yesterday by Fernando Macias. I do not have the unilateral authority to take this action. He said if they are not at work they will be docked administrative pay,” said Stewart.

Stewart adds, she can not endure more community spread and will keep her employees on rotation until after the holiday season and will reconsider COVID protocols on January 6. If the county manager does not change his mind on pay, Stewart says she will figure out a way to pay staff and has already consulted with legal council outside of the county to protect the sheriff’s department.