During a press conference Friday, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham announced four additional confirmed positive tests for COVID-19 in New Mexico, bringing the state’s total to 10. According to the Department of Health three of the new cases were a household contact with one of the initial six cases. Two of the 10 infected people have been hospitalized, said a DOH official.
All positive tests are sent to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for confirmation.
The four new cases were announced the morning after the state’s Public Education Department announced that all public schools in the state would close for three weeks starting March 16.
Lujan Grisham assured the public that imperative services like meals and child care will not be interrupted, although she said specifics have not been locked down yet and the whole process will be dynamic.
“Yesterday school was open. Monday they’re closed,” Lujan Grisham said. “That’s hard.”
Secretary of Education Ryan Stewart said his department will waive educational hour requirements, meaning those missed days will not have to be made up at the end of the school year.
Stewart called the decision to shut down schools a “very difficult one” but added that school buildings will remain open during the three weeks of canceled classes to help provide students with meals and parents with childcare.
Stewart also said there will be no gap in pay to teachers during the three weeks.
“Schools and districts will be paying their employees as if there were no closure,” Stewart said.
In a press release Thursday night, Stewart called shutting down schools for three weeks was a proactive approach.
Lujan Grisham said the state is still working out specific details and acknowledged the impact school closures and cancelling events has on the state’s economy.
“We are confident that we have a number of tools in our toolbox to ease those burdens,” she said.
Monica Armenta, a spokeswoman for Albuquerque Public Schools told NM Political Report that the district will work with the City of Albuquerque and Bernalillo County to provide meals to students who depend on school lunches. But, she said, specifics still need to get worked out.
“It’s a complicated and unprecedented effort,” Armenta said. “As soon as we have a plan finalized we will share that with everyone.”
The three new COVID-19 cases who contacted a previous presumptive positive resident are all from Bernalillo County: A man in his mid-50s, a man in his 80s, who is now hospitalized, and a woman in her mid-70s. The other, non-related case, is a Santa Fe County woman in her late-20s with recent travel to New York. She is at home in self-isolation.
Lujan Grisham said anyone who is showing signs of COVID-19 such as fever, cough or trouble breathing should call the Department of Health at 1-855-600-3453. More information can be found at the department’s website.
State officials continue to encourage people to avoid large crowds, wash their hands often for at least 20 seconds. The state has also issued a ban on all events that would gather more than 100 people.