Public education department imposes sanctions on people violating COVID protocols
SANTA FE, NM (KRQE) – Breaching COVID safety protocols in schools will cost you dearly. This is the message the New Mexico Department of Public Education is reminding everyone after learning that three staff members did not self-isolate after testing positive for COVID-19.
The department sent a message to superintendents statewide last month to remind school staff, students and parents of the penalty for not following the public health order. It comes after learning that three people in two districts tested positive for COVID but did not isolate themselves.
“We knew about three of them, so we said to follow up and make sure everyone across the state is aware of this possible fine,” said Dr Kurt Steinhaus, secretary of NMPED. Dr Steinhaus could not say in which districts this happened, but said the state learned about it through the school’s reporting system.
In the September 16 memo to the superintendents, the DEP said:
The New Mexico Department of Public Education (NMPED) and the New Mexico Department of Health (NMDOH) are aware that some people do not notify schools when they test positive for COVID-19, and that people come to school after having tested positive. This includes staff and parents who visit the school or send their students to school after testing positive.
Please note that people who refuse to self-isolate, or refuse to self-isolate their children, following a positive COVID-19 test put the health and safety of others at risk. Any such action will be referred back to NMDOH and the New Mexico Attorney General for investigation and possible civil and criminal enforcement. Individuals who violate public health orders or the Public Health Act may be subject to a fine of up to $ 5,000 per violation and up to six (6) months in prison.
Please help ensure the health and safety of our students and staff by reporting a refusal to follow public health self-isolation orders, contacting NMDOH at 1-833-551-0518, or submitting your concern here .
Dr Steinhaus said it’s all about child safety. âIt’s about protecting schoolchildren and all school staff. This is our main goal. And if we can keep them safe and get them to follow all Covid safe practices, we can keep them in school, and they can learn, they can be with their friends, âsaid Dr Steinhaus.
Since that memo was published, PED said there had been no more reports of people not self-isolating after testing positive. The department encourages everyone to report concerns about safe COVID protocols on an anonymous portal.
KRQE News 13 also asked PED for an update on voluntary COVID surveillance testing for students. As of September 27, only three of 27 public school districts have met that 25% weekly test target, with many districts still struggling to achieve 5%.