Ledes from the Land of Enchantment

LCPS shows a slight decrease in COVID-19 cases while students are out of school

LAS CRUCES – Las Cruces public schools reported a slight decrease in reporCOVID-19 cases reported since Nov. 18, indicating a slight decrease. However, it’s unclear if this was due to the fewer days in the classroom due to the Thanksgiving break.

The district reports that 12.87 percent of COVID-19 cases from students and 66.8 percent of COVID-19 cases from employees reported in the past 30 days have occurred in people who have been vaccinated.

There have been 1,026 newly reported cases in the past 30 days, according to the district’s dashboard. According to the report, around 107 vaccinated students and 127 vaccinated employees tested positive for COVID-19 between October 25 and November 23.

Earlier this month, the New Mexico Department of Health collected data showing a correlation between groundbreaking COVID-19 cases in vaccinated individuals and the date of their last vaccine dose. The data suggests that the longer a person has been on a dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, the more likely they are to have a breakthrough. The median time before someone experienced a breakthrough infection is about 5½ months.

Although a smaller group of students received the vaccine – based on the fact that vaccines for children ages 5-11 weren’t approved until November 2nd – most of the staff were vaccinated months ago.

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According to LCPS spokeswoman Kelly Jameson, about 80 percent of LCPS workers are fully vaccinated, which could contribute to the high percentage of breakthrough cases among LCPS workers.

LCPS reported that on Nov. 23, 81.4 percent of student cases were unvaccinated and 5.6 percent had undeclared vaccination status in the previous 30 days. Of the personnel cases, 25 percent were unvaccinated and 8.15 percent had an undeclared vaccination status.

If an LCPS employee is not vaccinated, they must provide weekly COVID-19 test results.

This week’s district COVID-19 stats

Last week, November 18-24, the county reported 186 new cases of COVID-19.

This is the lowest number of cases in a week since October 22, but LCPS has been out of class since November 19 because of a week off for Thanksgiving.

It’s unclear if this is a real decline in new cases or if the steady rise will continue after students return on Monday. Both November 21 and November 24 reported 0 new cases – the first time since October 2.

LCPS has stated that it has closely monitored COVID-19 cases and introduced new improved protocols for schools that have exceeded 3 and 5 percent positive COVID-19 cases relative to the number of people in a building.

One school will work with county officials and the New Mexico Department of Health to determine if a transition to hybrid or distance learning is needed.

Because of the drop in cases this week, the percentage of cases has also decreased. However, several schools remain above the 3 percent threshold: MacArthur Elementary (4.11 percent), Tombaugh Elementary (4.16 percent), Jornada Elementary (4.04 percent), East Picacho Elementary (3.65 percent), Rio Grande Preparatory Institute (3.41 percent) and Camino Real Mitte (3.28 percent).

As of Wednesday evening, 1,643 cumulative cases had been reported.

Cumulative district data

Overall, around 8.86 percent of the students and staff at the LCPS tested positive for COVID-19 this school year – almost twice as many as two weeks ago.

Of the 1,643 positive cases in the district, 1,326 are students and 317 are employees or contractors, according to the new dashboard.

Las Cruces Public Schools' COVID-19 tracking system has reported 1,643 cases across the district since classes began on November 24, 2021.  The system breaks down the cases by school.

Organ Mountain High again had the highest number of new cases this week at 20. Camino Real Middle had 14, Hermosa Heights Elementary, Jornada Elementary, and Las Cruces High all had 10.

Continue reading:LCPS COVID-19 vaccination clinics: 700 children and adults over six days

Organ Mountain High now has the highest number of cumulative COVID-19 cases of any county with 154 reported positive cases – 143 of them as student cases.

Mayfield High has 93 accumulated cases as of Aug. 19. Three other schools have more than 70 cases: Camino Real Middle has 83; Centennial High has 79; Las Cruces High has 79.

The Las Cruces district administration designation also has 62 reported cases.

The new COVID-19 dashboard from LCPS can be found at lcps.net/returnplan/covidnews.html.

COVID-19 Rapid Response by District

There are currently no quick responses at Hatch Valley Public Schools, according to the New Mexico Environmental Department’s Rapid Response Tracker.

Gadsden Independent School District has 24 quick answers: Desert Trail Elementary has two, La Union Elementary has two, Loma Linda Elementary has two, Riverside Elementary has three, Chaparral Elementary has two, Chaparral Middle has three, Chaparral High has two, Gadsden High has two, Santa Teresa Middle has two, Santa Teresa High has two, and the GISD Administrative Complex has two quick answers.

In total, LCPS has 93.

The J. Paul Taylor Academy’s Charter School has two quick answers.

A quick response means one or more people tested positive for COVID-19 and were contagious on campus. All cases reported to a school on a single day, as well as all cases with test dates until the next day, are summarized in a single quick reaction.

The New Mexico Public Education Department announced on Aug. 19 that it will not require schools to close if it receives four quick responses in 14 days, which was the previous policy.

There is no set percentage or number of positive cases that a school would convert to distance learning.

Instead, the department will work with schools to implement improved COVID-safe practices that will sustain personal learning as much as possible. It is at a district’s discretion whether or not to convert a school to distance learning unless the Department of Health intervenes.

Thirty-three schools across the state have four or more quick answers. The number of COVID-19 cases in schools has increased nationwide.

New Mexico Secretary of Health Dr. David Scrase said earlier this month that the spread of COVID-19 among children in schools is less common and more likely to take place outside of school, where masking and social distancing may not be enforced.

Check out the NMED website to follow quick responses at env.nm.gov/rapid-response-data/.

Miranda Cyr, a member of the Report for America corps, can be reached at [email protected] or @mirandacyr on Twitter. Show your support for the Report for America program at https://bit.ly/LCSNRFA.

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