State addresses new coronavirus cases, public school closures, unemployment in press conference

Coronavirus New Mexico

SANTA FE, N.M. (KRQE) – A day after the Public Education Department announced that all New Mexico public schools will be closed for three weeks due to concerns of coronavirus spread, Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham held a press conference on Friday, March 13.

Several points were addressed during the conference:

  • There are now 10 presumptive positive cases of COVID-19 in New Mexico
  • Schools will work to provide cafeteria and meal services during the three-week closure
  • Schools are working to keep school health centers open
  • Districts with online programming are encouraged to offer services on a voluntary basis
  • Schools will not have to make up missed days
  • School employees will be paid during the closure as if schools were still in session
  • Dept. of Workforce Solutions will be waiving work search requirements for those unemployed resulting from the COVID-19 situation starting Monday
  • For questions regarding non-health issues and information on family support contact family support services at 1-833-551-0518

Handling of Contact Cases

During the Department of Health’s investigation of presumptive positive cases, an extensive interview process takes place between the individual and their household to determine the individual’s contacts over their incubation period. The patient is also asked to fill out a daily activity log from their 14 days prior to their symptom onset to identify who they were interacting with and where they went.

A team of investigators then tracks down each person who they came in contact with. If the patient lists a public location such as a restaurant or church, investigators will then work with the leaders of the organization to determine who may have come in contact with the patient.

Those individuals are then interviewed regarding any possible symptoms and are then tested. If they do not show symptoms, they are asked to self-quarantine.

Schools

Education Secretary Ryan Stewart stated that the decision to close school for three weeks was difficult as many families rely on essential school services. However, during a meeting with superintendents and school officials, several issues were brought up such as staffing concerns and students falling behind after missing school due to illnesses.

These factors contributed to the decision to close schools for three weeks.

“We are working with all districts and all charter schools to continue meal service. We’ve been working with the federal government around a waiver process for being able to extend our meal programs across the state. So we’re going to be keeping cafeterias open and organizing grab and go meal programs and also working with other state agencies to work on distribution of meals to kids who aren’t able to come into the schools to get their daily meals,” said Stewart.

Albuquerque Public Schools has since identified 89 sites for meal pick-ups for all school-age students under the age of 18.

Additionally, schools are working with the Department of Health to provide behavioral counseling services and to keep school health centers open.

Schools will not have to make up for the days when school is closed and the requirements will be waived. Schools and districts will be paying their employees as if there were no closure and that school was still in session.

Districts with online programs are encouraged to offer these services on a voluntary basis during the closure in order to allow students to have access to instructional programming.

State testing will be pushed back to ensure students do not miss out on assessments.

During the closure, all athletic events including practices and games will be postponed or canceled. Districts will be working with NMAA to plan for the spring sports schedule.

Unemployment

Starting on Monday, March 16, at 8 a.m. the Department of Workforce Solutions will be waiving work search requirements for unemployment for anyone affected by the COVID-19 situation. Certain workers are eligible for unemployment insurance benefits.

Those who wish to file a claim are asked to visit the department’s website or by calling 1-877-664-6984 to do so.

Those filing are asked to certify once a week and the maximum amount of unemployment allowed is $461 a week. If a business cuts hours instead of implementing layoffs, employees can file for unemployment and make up the difference between their weekly earnings and the $461 level, a process known as layoff aversion.

New hotline to answer questions regarding non-health issues

A new hotline is open and dedicated to questions regarding non-health related issues such as unemployment, schools, childcare, food security, etc. That number is 1-833-551-0518.

If you have traveled, have been with someone who has recently traveled or have symptoms of coronavirus call 855-600-3543.

All information covered in this press conference will soon be available on NewMexico.gov.

Related Coverage:

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