Public Education Department provides penalties for those who violate COVID protocols
SANTA FE, NM (KRQE) — Violating COVID safety protocols in schools will cost you dearly. That’s 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 across the state last month reminding 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 have tested positive for COVID but have not self-isolated.
“We knew about three, so we said to follow up and make sure everyone across the state is aware of this potential fine,” said NMPED secretary Dr. Kurt Steinhaus. Dr. Steinhaus couldn’t say in which districts it happened, but said the state learned about it through the school’s reporting system.
In the September 16 memo to superintendents, the PED said:
The New Mexico Department of Public Education (NMPED) and 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 testing positive. This includes staff and parents visiting the school or sending their students to school after testing positive.
Please note that people who refuse to self-isolate or refuse to isolate their children following a positive COVID-19 test put the health and safety of others at risk. Any such action will be referred to the NMDOH and the New Mexico Attorney General for investigation and possible civil and criminal enforcement. Individuals who violate public health orders or public health law may be subject to a fine of up to $5,000 per violation and up to six (6) months in jail.
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 was all about child safety. “This is to keep schoolchildren and all school staff safe. This is our main objective. And if we can keep them safe and get them through all the covid safety practices, we can keep them in school, and they can learn, they can be with their friends,” Dr Steinhaus said.
Since that note was published, PED said it has had no further reports of people not being isolated after testing positive. The department encourages everyone to report concerns about COVID safety protocols to an anonymous portal.
KRQE News 13 also asked PED for an update on voluntary COVID surveillance testing for students. As of Sept. 27, only three of 27 public school districts had met that goal of 25% testing per week, with many districts still struggling to reach even 5%.