Close to 100 students in Carlsbad tested positive for COVID-19, Carlsbad Schools Superintendent Gerry Washburn told the school board on Tuesday.
Washburn said five Carlsbad Municipal School staff members also tested positive for the virus, and that at least one staff member was hospitalized in an intensive care unit and breathing with the help of a ventilator.
This comes as coronavirus cases rose throughout the U.S., and significantly in Eddy County. As of July 20, the County reported 7,061 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 141 deaths related to the virus.
“As you make prayers, please make prayers for people who are suffering,” Washburn said during the meeting.
Washburn said he traveled to Albuquerque on July 21 for a meeting with all public school administrators in New Mexico and the New Mexico Public Education Department. He said he expected the New Mexico secretary of education to release a new “toolkit” to assist administrators with reopening plans.
It is still unclear what guidelines will be in place to protect New Mexico students headed back to classrooms for the 2021-22 school year.
In early July, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced that vaccinated students and staff would not need to wear masks in school to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Weeks later, the American Academy of Pediatrics released updated guidance for schools, recommending that everyone over the age of 2 wear a mask, regardless of vaccination status.
“There are many children and others who cannot be vaccinated,” said Dr. Sara Bode, chairwoman-elect of the AAP Council on School Health Executive Committee. “This is why it’s important to use every tool in our toolkit to safeguard children from COVID-19. Universal masking is one of those tools and has been proven effective in protecting people against other respiratory diseases, as well.”
According to the New Mexico Department of Health, Eddy County has one of the state’s lowest vaccination rates, with only 40.8% of its residents vaccinated as of July 19.
President of the Carlsbad School Board David Shoup said during the board meeting that the dangers of the coronavirus are real.
“I have several businesses in the area, and I lost my second employee to COVID this morning,” Shoup said. “He was diagnosed on July 7.”
CMS continued to operate under the guidelines provided by the New Mexico Public Education Department. Washburn said updates will continue to be announced as they are made available.