Quay County Sun - Serving the High Plains

By Ron Warnick
QCS Senior Writer 

County misses on coronavirus benchmarks


September 9, 2020

Additional elementary students in Quay County didn’t begin classes after Labor Day as previously anticipated because it didn’t meet the state criteria for school reopenings.

And Tucumcari Public Schools’ superintendent said he doesn’t anticipate the county meeting those coronavirus benchmarks soon.

For schools in New Mexico to offer in-person classes to all elementary students by Sept. 8, their counties were required to have coronavirus case rates of less than 8 per 100,000 people and a COVID-19 test positivity rate below 5% from Aug. 19 to Sept. 1.

Quay County missed on both benchmarks, according to data collected by the state’s Department of Health. It had a caseload of 9.4 per 100,000 people and a test positivity rate of 7.3%. That is in the red zone, the worst rating.

Quay County saw 11 cases of COVID-19 from Aug. 19 to Sept. 1, including one death.

Only counties designated in the green zone could reopen fully to elementary students.

Tucumcari superintendent Aaron McKinney said Friday he had a strong hunch the previous week that Quay County wouldn’t meet the criteria for school reopenings once he saw the state’s modeling.

“It wasn’t looking good,” he said.

Human Services Secretary David Scrase said during a videoconference Thursday afternoon with Education Secretary Ryan Stewart they would re-examine the numbers for all counties in two weeks.

McKinney said the state’s Public Education Department would brief school districts weekly on the coronavirus data. Though it’s conceivable Quay County could go into the green zone this week, he said he didn’t anticipate it would happen that quickly.

“We’re going to have to lower quite a bit,” McKinney said. “We’re on the phone weekly with the PED, so we have a pretty good idea on what’s going on.”

All Quay County schools had been slated to offer in-person classes for all elementary students Sept. 8.

Tucumcari instead is holding in-person classes from prekindergarten through third grade as it has since mid-August.

Logan Municipal Schools began in-person classes Tuesday for prekindergarten through second grade. Logan delayed its start of the school year because of a COVID-19 outbreak in the village that infected at least three staff members.

House offered in-person classes for prekindergarten through second grade Tuesday.

San Jon Municipal Schools announced Thursday afternoon it would offer only online classes this week; Tuesday was going to be its first school day after its board delayed the start of the school year.

The counties of Roosevelt, Hidalgo, Lea, Luna, Eddy and Chavez also were deemed in the red zone for school reopenings because their caseloads and test positivity rates were too high.

Dona Ana County was in the orange zone. Curry and McKinley counties were in the yellow zone.

Area counties in the green zone included Union, Guadalupe, Harding, De Baca and San Miguel.

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham indicated some weeks ago the state would allow middle-school students to begin in-person classes in late September and high-school students in early October. But McKinney said that scenario likely is out the window.

“What we were told yesterday is there is no definite dates at this point,” he said. “But it could change tomorrow. At this point, we really don’t know.”


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