LAS CRUCES – Las Cruces Public Schools reported a slight decline in the number of reporCOVID-19 cases reported since Nov. 18 indicates a slight decline. However, it’s unclear if this may be the result of fewer days in the classroom due to the Thanksgiving break.
The district reports that 12.87 percent of student COVID-19 cases and 66.8 percent of staff COVID-19 cases reported in the last 30 days occurred in vaccinated individuals.
In the last 30 days, there have been 1,026 newly reported cases, according to the district’s dashboard. Based on the report, about 107 vaccinated students and 127 vaccinated staff members have tested positive for COVID-19 between Oct. 25 and Nov. 23.
Earlier this month, the New Mexico Department of Health collected data showing a correlation between breakthrough COVID-19 cases in vaccinated individuals and the date of their most recent dose of vaccine. The data suggest that the longer ago a person got a dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, the more likely they are to have a breakthrough case. The median time period before someone experienced a breakthrough infection is about 5 and a half months.
Although a smaller population of students have gotten the vaccine — based on the fact that vaccines for children ages 5 to 11 were not approved until Nov. 2 — most staff members were vaccinated months ago.
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According to LCPS spokeswoman Kelly Jameson, about 80 percent of LCPS staff members are fully vaccinated, which could add to the high percentage of breakthrough cases for LCPS employees.
LCPS reported that, as of Nov. 23, 81.4 percent of student cases in the past 30 days were unvaccinated and 5.6 percent had an undeclared vaccine status. Among staff cases, 25 percent were unvaccinated and 8.15 percent had an undeclared vaccine status.
If a staff member at LCPS is unvaccinated, they must submit weekly COVID-19 test results.
This week’s district COVID-19 numbers
This past week, from Nov. 18 to Nov. 24, the district reported 186 new cases of COVID-19.
This marks the lowest number of cases in one week since Oct. 22, but LCPS has been out of class since Nov. 19 due to a week off for Thanksgiving break.
It is unclear if this is a true decline in new cases, or if the steady increase will pick up when students return on Monday. Both Nov. 21 and Nov. 24 reported 0 new cases — the first time this has happened since Oct. 2.
LCPS has stated it is closely monitoring COVID-19 cases and introduced new enhanced protocols for schools that have surpassed 3 and 5 percent positive COVID-19 cases relative to the number of people in a building.
A school will work with district officials and the New Mexico Department of Health to determine if a transition to hybrid or remote learning is necessary.
Due to this week’s drop in cases, the percent of cases have dropped as well. 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 Middle (3.28 percent).
As of Wednesday evening, there were 1,643 cumulative cases reported.
Cumulative district data
Overall, about 8.86 percent of students and staff at LCPS have tested positive for COVID-19 this school year — almost double the percent from two weeks ago.
Out of the 1,643 positive cases in the district, 1,326 are students and 317 are staff members or contractors, according to the new dashboard.
Organ Mountain High once again had the highest number of new cases this week with 20. Camino Real Middle had 14, Hermosa Heights Elementary, Jornada Elementary and Las Cruces High all had 10.
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Organ Mountain High now has the highest number of cumulative COVID-19 cases of any district location with 154 reported positive cases — 143 of which are reported as student cases.
Mayfield High has 93 cumulative cases since 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.
LCPS’s new COVID-19 dashboard can be found at lcps.net/returnplan/covidnews.html.
COVID-19 Rapid Response by district
According to the New Mexico Environmental Department’s Rapid Response tracker, there are no current rapid responses at Hatch Valley Public Schools.
Gadsden Independent School District has 24 rapid responses: 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 rapid responses.
In total, LCPS has 93.
J. Paul Taylor Academy Charter School has two rapid responses.
A rapid response means one or more people tested positive for COVID-19 and were infectious while on campus. All cases reported to a school on a single day, along with all cases with test dates through the following day, are grouped into a single rapid response.
The New Mexico Public Education Department announced on Aug. 19 that it will not be requiring schools to close upon reaching four rapid responses in 14 days, which was the previous guidance.
There is no set percent or number of positive cases that would require a school to move to remote learning.
Instead, the department will work with schools to implement enhanced COVID-safe practices that will maintain in-person learning as much as possible. It is up to a district whether or not a school is moved to remote learning, unless the Department of Health steps in.
Thirty-three schools across the state have four or more rapid responses. There has been an increase statewide of COVID-19 cases in schools.
New Mexico Department of Health Secretary Dr. David Scrase said earlier this month that COVID-19 spread among children is less common in schools, and is more likely happening outside of school where masking and socially distancing might not be enforced.
View the NMED’s website to keep track of rapid responses at env.nm.gov/rapid-response-data/.
Miranda Cyr, a Report for America corps member, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or @mirandacyr on Twitter. Show your support for the Report for America program at https://bit.ly/LCSNRFA.