SANTA FE, N.M. (KRQE) – Violating COVID-safe protocols in schools will cost you. That’s the message the New Mexico Public Education Department is reminding everyone after learning that three staff members didn’t isolate after testing positive for COVID-19.
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The department sent a message to superintendents across the state last month to remind school staff, students, and parents of the penalty of not following the public health order. It comes after learning three individuals across two districts tested positive for COVID but did not isolate.
“We knew about three so we said let’s follow up and make sure everybody across the state knows about this possible fine,” said Dr. Kurt Steinhaus, secretary of NMPED. Dr. Steinhaus couldn’t share which districts this happened in but said the state learned of it through the school’s reporting system.
In the September 16 memo to superintendents the PED said:
The New Mexico Public Education Department (NMPED) and the New Mexico Department of Health (NMDOH) are aware that certain individuals are not letting schools know when they test positive for COVID-19, and that individuals are coming to school after testing positive. This includes staff and parents visiting the school or sending their students to school after testing positive.
Please be aware that individuals refusing to self-isolate, or refusing to self-isolate their children, following a positive COVID-19 test put the health and safety of others at serious risk. Any such action will be referred to NMDOH and the New Mexico Attorney General for investigation and possible civil and criminal enforcement. Individuals who violate the Public Health Orders or Public Health Act may be subject to a fine of up to $5,000 per violation and up to six (6) months in jail.
Please help ensure the health and safety of our students and staff by reporting a refusal to following self-isolation public health orders, by contacting NMDOH at 1-833-551-0518 or by submitting your concern here.
Dr. Steinhaus said it really all centers around the safety of kids. “This is all about keeping school kids and all the staff in schools safe. That’s our primary focus. And if we can keep them safe, and make them follow all of the covid safe practices then we can keep them in school, and they can learn, they can be with their friends,” Dr. Steinhaus said.
Since that memo went out, PED said it hasn’t had any more reports of people not isolating after testing positive. The department is encouraging everyone to report concerns regarding COVID-safe protocols to an anonymous portal.
KRQE News 13 also asked PED for an update on voluntary COVID surveillance testing for students. As of September 27, only three of 27 public school districts met that 25% testing goal per week with many of the districts still struggling to even meet 5%.