ICYMI: New Mexico Takes Another Cautious Step in Reopening

Last Thursday, Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham announced a change to the mandated 14-day quarantine for all out-of-state visitors: starting Friday, travelers from lower-risk states with 5% positivity rates or lower, or who can furnish a negative COVID-19 test within three days of arriving in the state, will not need to quarantine. A separate health order from Health Secretary Kathy Kunkel increased maximum hotel occupancy from 50% to 75%.

Also on Thursday, Public Education Department Secretary Ryan Stewart held a webinar to announce that 50 public school districts and 41 state-chartered charter schools around the state could begin to bring their students back for in-person instruction, starting with elementary students. Middle and high school students must remain at home for online learning, per the Governor’s order.

To be eligible, districts must be located within “green” counties, using calculations that take into account both positivity rates and the number of cases per 100,000. These numbers are calculated on a 14-day rolling average, to stabilize any spikes that could require sudden closures again and create whiplash for students and educators; officials also stressed their commitment to fairness to districts in small counties, for whom even a handful of cases could result in closures without careful handling of data. Districts must also have a PED-approved reentry plan, outlining COVID-19 safety policies and protocols in line with state guidelines.

It’s not yet clear how many of those districts and schools have now begun in-person learning; Albuquerque Public Schools announced last month that they would continue remote instruction until January at the earliest, while Rio Rancho Public Schools’ board voted to begin a phased return to the classroom September 14.

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