NMDOH: 25% of COVID-19 cases in the past week are among children

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — According to state health officials, around 25% of all COVID-19 cases in the last week were among children.

School-age children are included in that group, so could this impact in-person learning? School districts around the state have new "enhanced" COVID procedures in place, in case the surge gets worse.

If a school has a certain percentage of COVID-positive cases, that facility would be required to start implementing those additional measures. The good news, so far, is that both Rio Rancho Public Schools and Albuquerque Public Schools said they have not reached that point, they hope to keep it that way.

"Right now, by far, about 75% of our cases are students," said Gabriella Blakey, chief operations officer at APS. "Primarily elementary students."

Cases at APS are the highest they’ve ever been – jumping from 186 the week of Nov. 1 to just shy of 300 the week of Nov. 8, impacting 92 APS facilities.

"What we try to do is limit any sort of spread that happens," said Blakey. "I think we’ve done a really good job at that. We don’t see a lot of spread in the classroom."

On top of current measures, NMPED required districts to submit enhanced protocols if 5% of students and staff on campus are infectious during a 14-day period.

Those enhanced measures have a wide range. It could mean moving to outdoor learning, universal masking outdoors, even restricting visitors at school events – or events altogether.

"We have had some schools approach 3% or be at 3%. What we do in that case is a site visit to go over the enhanced plans with school to make sure if there are any mitigation strategies they can look at," said Blakey.

Cases have also increased at Rio Rancho Public Schools. In the last month, they’ve had almost 200 total positive cases. Officials said that’s just a small portion of their 17,000 student population. Click here for the measures in place in Rio Rancho.

"Our schools, since we’ve been tracking it since Oct. 1, we haven’t had a school that’s even reached 2%," said Mariah Affentranger, RRPS Student Services Support director and COVID coordinator.

Affentranger said they have plans in place to track those cases and isolate students as quickly as they can.

"Our classrooms and our schools are some of the safest places you can be in our community," she said.

But with more community spread, school officials said families need to be extra cautious.

"As we start to approach the holiday season, next week is Thanksgiving, it’s already come up upon us pretty quickly, we really need to stay vigilant," said Melissa Perez, public information officer at RRPS. "Remember to practice social distancing, wear a mask indoors, because we want to make sure we can keep students in classrooms."

Both districts said they are carefully tracking those cases. Click here for the latest data for Rio Rancho Public Schools:

Here’s more on what could happen if APS has to implement those enhanced measures:

  • Enhanced mitigation strategies include implementing the following safe practices when a school population (students & staff) reaches a positive COVID-19 case rate of 5% within a 14-day period. Several schools have implemented some of the enhanced mitigation strategies listed as an additional precaution regardless of positive COVID-19 case rates.
  • outdoor learning if/when circumstances allow
  • universal masking outdoors
  • facing one way in cafeteria to the greatest extent possible
  • eating outdoors (if circumstances allow), in classrooms or in a larger indoor setting to support social distancing to the greatest extent possible
  • cohort students when possible – depends on school and grade level
  • allow only essential visitors
  • restrict spectators at school events
  • suspend extracurricular events for a 10 day period if a club/team has 5% or more COVID-19 positive cases within the club/team in the past 14 days
  • suspend all extracurricular events if a school remains at 5% or higher after having implemented enhanced mitigation strategies for 14 days
  • suspend highly attended events such as but not limited to assemblies, open houses, dances, festivals and other mass gatherings if a school reaches 5% or more COVID-19 positive cases in the past 14 days
  • stagger transition times
  • report directly into classes/cohorts upon arriving at school
  • stagger recess times/spaces to separate classes/cohorts of students
  • restrict water fountain use to only filling water bottles
  • restrict access to lockers