Serving the High Plains

Tucumcari Elementary staff member tests positive

A Tucumcari Elementary School staff member has tested positive for COVID-19.

The state's Department of Education reported Monday the afflicted staff member hadn't been on school grounds since Sept. 30. All staff members, parents and guardians of students have been notified.

The state's COVID-19 rapid-response team database, which tracks businesses and entities that report cases, identified a case Monday at Tucumcari Elementary School.

The PED stated all “close contacts” of the case will be instructed to quarantine for 14 days. Affected classrooms and facilities will be cleaned and disinfected.

Staff must be tested if symptomatic or a close contact. Staff members, however, will not be required to present a negative test result to return to work. Symptomatic staff may return to work after 10 days, plus 24 hours, after the fever is gone and COVID-19 symptoms have improved. Asymptomatic staff who have been close contacts may return to work after a 14-day quarantine.

Tucumcari Superintendent Aaron McKinney, citing privacy laws, said Monday he couldn't reveal how many employees must quarantine themselves, but said school operations have not shut down.

Seventeen cases were reported Monday in New Mexico public schools, according to the PED.

The latest COVID-19 case in Quay County, reported Monday, was a man age 60 to 69 in the Tucumcari ZIP code, according to the state's Department of Health.

Another case was reported Saturday in a woman age 20 to 29 in Tucumcari.

Of the 77 cases in the county since the pandemic began, 48 have been deemed by the Department of Health as recovered from the disease, with two deaths.

State outlook

New Mexico’s governor last week expressed alarm at a sharp rise in cases of the virus and hospitalizations in the state.

The state’s spread rate of the disease late last week inched up to 1.27, well above the gating criteria of 1.05. The rolling daily average of cases also exceeded the benchmark of 168, with several days where the caseload went past the 200 mark.

Hospitalizations from the disease also have risen by more than 30% since Sept. 24, which Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said was “concerning.”

However, no changes were announced to public health orders.

“I think we have the right state public health directives out, but for them to work, the public must follow them,” Human Services Secretary David Scrase said, reiterating the importance of masks, hand-washing and social distancing.

Lujan Grisham announced Monday afternoon she was temporarily quarantining herself after possible exposure to a custodial staff member at the governor's residence in Santa Fe who tested positive for COVID-19. The governor has tested negative for the disease.

She attributed the rise in cases to a lack of mask-wearing in recent weeks. “Anecdotally, it looks like it’s decreasing,” she said of mask usage.

Lujan Grisham recommended New Mexicans limit public activities to three to five a day to avoid more lockdowns.

“We don’t have to do (a lockdown) if we all pull together,” she said.

Another 189 cases were reported in the state Sunday, raising the total to almost 30,500.

Two deaths in the state were reported Sunday, raising the total to 892. A total of 91 people were hospitalized with the disease.

Of the 76 cases in the county since the pandemic began, 47 have been deemed by the Department of Health as recovered from the disease, with two deaths. A total of 1,980 COVID-19 tests have been administered in the county.

In the U.S., more than 7.4 million people have been confirmed with the virus, with more than 209,000 deaths as of Monday.