LAS CRUCES, N.M. (KFOX14/CBS4) — The New Mexico Public Education Department has plans to implement its new "Test to Stay" COVID-19 program that will allow students and staff, identified as close contacts to a positive COVID-19 case in the school setting, to stay in school as long as they test negative on rapid tests.
The program, which is supported by a $64 million federal grant by the American Rescue Plan Act, will not cost school districts money.
Las Cruces Public Schools said it will be beneficial to students and parents who would have had to make plans for their children to stay home and quarantine.
“This is a good thing, this will allow us to keep students in school, and it will shorten their interruption in in-person learning, so whereas as [unvaccinated] students and [staff] had to quarantine for 10 days cause they were identified as a close contact, now they will have that option of testing and staying in school and participating in extracurricular activities," said Kelly Jameson, LCPS spokesperson.
Over the weekend LCPS learned that 100 students tested positive. The new program will allow unvaccinated students who may have had close contact with positive students to remain in school as long as they test negative.
“We’ve heard a lot of concern from New Mexico families about long quarantines for asymptomatic students in districts where full-scale remote learning isn’t an option,” said Public Education Secretary (Designate) Kurt Steinhaus. "We want to keep students in class to the greatest extent possible and provide a safe learning environment for students and staff. We believe this Test to Stay program checks those boxes.”
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"To participate in Test to Stay requires an individual to test negative on rapid COVID-19 tests on days one, three, and five following exposure (day zero is the day of exposure). A school may require individuals to test more frequently than the required three tests," the NMPED COVID-19 Response Toolkit stated.
If an individual on Test to Stay shows COVID-19 symptoms requiring self-isolation, then the individual must self-isolate at home pending confirmation of a negative test for COVID-19. If COVID-19 is confirmed, then self-isolation continues for 10 days, NMPED stated.
According to NMPED, if a person participating in Test to Stay has a second close contact exposure while on modified quarantine, the testing sequence must be restarted for the most recent close contact.
Any individual with exposure to COVID-19 in the household setting is ineligible to participate in Test to Stay.
Individuals who opt-out of Test to Stay and have had close contact with someone with COVID-19 at school will have to quarantine at home fo 10 days as previously required.
NMPED stated that all schools are required to participate in Test to Stay programs to help ensure more students can continue in-person learning.
School districts across New Mexico are already working to identify current staff and hire new staff needed to implement school site rapid testing. Implementation will begin as soon as districts have completed training and certification to administer tests. The Department of Health will lead those trainings.
LCPS stated that a contractor will come to the school to help provide testing.
NMPED defines close contact as: "Someone who over a 24-hour period, has a cumulative exposure of fifteen minutes or longer within six feet of a confirmed COVID-19 case with or without a face covering."
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