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NM virus case growth ticks up, more schools could reopen

Students at San Antonio Elementary School in Socorro are reminded about social distancing guidelines by head teacher JohnRay Dennis. The school is one of about 65 elementary schools that have been allowed by the state Public Education Department to reopen under a hybrid model. (El Defensor Chieftan)

Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal

SANTA FE – New Mexico’s rolling average of new coronavirus cases crept up Friday, even as Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s administration eased some restrictions on youth activities in a revised public health order.

While the state’s number of new COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths remain below peak levels, the state’s seven-day rolling average of new cases has increased this week after steadily declining in August and the first weeks of September.

State health officials announced 154 new cases Friday, with several southeast New Mexico counties posting double-digit positive test figures. That brought the state’s rolling average of new cases to 113 cases per day, according to a Journal analysis.

Lujan Grisham said this week she would like to see no more than 100 cases – or far fewer – reported daily statewide.

In addition, the Department of Health reported five additional deaths related to COVID-19, bringing the state’s death toll from the disease to 841.

Most of the victims have been elderly individuals with underlying health conditions like diabetes, heart disease and lung disease. However, one of the deaths reported Friday was a man in his 40s from McKinley County with no underlying health conditions.

Meanwhile, state officials also announced Friday four more counties have met virus condition requirements for phased-in school reopenings.

McKinley, Hidalgo, Doña Ana and Curry counties are now able to bring elementary school students back to school through a hybrid of in-person and online schooling, though each school district’s plan must be approved by the Public Education Department.

Since early this month, about 65 elementary schools with roughly 12,500 students have reopened in hybrid, according to the state.

However, Catron County has gone from “green” to “red.” The state said schools there won’t have to close as of now but they’ll be monitoring the area.

While Albuquerque Public Schools are slated to remain in remote learning through the first semester, the district’s interim superintendent, Scott Elder, told staff in a newsletter that there are some new expectations on the horizon for schools.

He said when educators return to the classroom, they’ll be subject to voluntary or random testing and the state expects 5% of school staff to be tested a week.

Journal staff writer Shelby Perea contributed to this report.

 


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