NM Public Education Department reduces quarantine, self-isolation time, requires booster

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The New Mexico Public Education Department (PED) released updated COVID-19 guidelines, shortening quarantine and self-isolation times for students and staff.

The PED will also require staff members to receive a booster shot to be considered fully vaccinated.

The new guidelines reduce the quarantine and self-isolation periods from 10 days to five days in accordance with the Center for Disease Control guidance announced on Dec. 27.

Carlsbad Municipal Schools (CMS) Superintendent Dr. Gerry Washburn told the Current-Argus he was concerned booster shot requirements would create additional strain on the district's testing supplies.

Washburn said over 70 percent of CMS staff had received two shots of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine or one shot of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. He said the number that had already received the booster was much lower.

Carlsbad Municipal Schools Superintendent Gerry Washburn discusses the COVID-19 pandemic with Lt. Gov. Howie Morales, Nov. 10, 2020 in district's administration building.
Carlsbad Municipal Schools Superintendent Gerry Washburn discusses the COVID-19 pandemic with Lt. Gov. Howie Morales, Nov. 10, 2020 in district's administration building.

"Nationally, the demand for COVID-19 tests has outstripped supply," said the PED's Deputy Communications Director Judy Robinson. "However, the New Mexico Department of Health has secured sufficient rapid antigen tests to maintain the test to stay program in schools."

On Jan. 10 CMS was forced to temporarily close its drive-thru COVID-19 testing site after running out of testing supplies.

In response to the national shortage, the Biden administration announced on Wednesday that it would also provide American schools with 10 million additional COVID-19 tests every month.

Robison said schools across the state have also seen interruptions in testing schedules due to staff testing positive for the virus.

Carlsbad Municipal School's drive-thru testing site at Edison Elementary School opened on Nov. 30 2021.
Carlsbad Municipal School's drive-thru testing site at Edison Elementary School opened on Nov. 30 2021.

The CMS testing site previously closed on Jan. 6 after all the district's testing staff tested positive for the virus.

Loving Elementary School (LMS) was forced to close on Jan. 13 when at least 20 percent of its staff were absent due to quarantine requirements. LMS Superintendent Lee White said his district still has plenty of tests but is still concerned potential shortages.

Under PED regulations students and staff that come in contact with someone that has tested positive for COVID-19 and are not fully vaccinated are required to quarantine or take part of the test to stay program.

The test to stay program allows these students and staff to stay in school if they test negative for the virus.

Those that are fully vaccinated generally do not need to quarantine if they show no symptoms but the PED recommends testing for COVID-19 five days after exposure.

Claudia Silva is a reporter from the UNM Local Reporting Fellowship. She can be reached at csilva2@currentargus.com, by phone at 575-628-5506 or on Twitter @thewatchpup.

This article originally appeared on Carlsbad Current-Argus: NM Public Education Department updates COVID-19 regulations

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