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Ramon Torres studies on his laptop at Capital High School in February. Students and staff at Santa Fe Public Schools will be required to wear face masks indoors to begin the new school year to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

All students and staff at Santa Fe Public Schools will be required to wear face masks indoors to prevent the spread of COVID-19 when classrooms reopen Friday, Superintendent Hilario “Larry” Chavez announced Monday.

The decision comes as the faster-spreading delta variant of the coronavirus continues to push case numbers higher in Santa Fe and throughout New Mexico. The delta variant — which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has described as more contagious than chickenpox — has taken hold in New Mexico in the past month, just as public school staff and students have been preparing to begin the 2021-22 year with classrooms fully open and in-person learning as close to normal as possible after a year and a half of disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Chavez said masks will be considered optional outdoors for students and staff at Santa Fe Public Schools. But inside buildings and on buses, they will be required for everyone — regardless of age or vaccination status.

The rule also applies to extracurricular activities, such as sports.

The mask requirement brings the school district in line with recommendations the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued last week, just a day after the state Public Education Department released more lenient guidelines. The state’s rules ask schools to ensure elementary students are masked indoors, but so far allow middle school and high school students who are fully vaccinated to forgo wearing masks.

“Our first priority is to ensure a safe learning environment for both students and staff,” Chavez said in a statement Monday. “As we get ready to welcome students back on August 6th, we want everyone to be protected, especially those who cannot yet be vaccinated. Requiring masks inside of school buildings and on school buses is the best course right now given the current status of the coronavirus.”

The Albuquerque school board voted last week for a mask requirement for all students and staff.

Chavez said in an interview Monday evening the Santa Fe district’s decision was made without a vote from the school board and was based in part on feedback from staff, school board members and the community.

Unless the New Mexico Public Education Department alters its COVID-19 safety guidelines, Chavez said, families shouldn’t expect any other changes to the district’s rules for classroom learning.

Santa Fe school board President Kate Noble said she was relieved by Chavez’s decision.

“Personally, I think it’s way easier to enforce it with a bit more consistency,” she said.

Grace Meyer, president of the National Education Association-Santa Fe, did not respond to messages seeking comment on the mask rule. Last week, however, she predicted the district’s rules would be more stringent than the state’s.

The district is hosting a virtual town hall Tuesday night on YouTube to discuss reopening plans. Topics will include the mask requirement, Desert Sage Academy opening as the district’s K-12 online option, personal protective equipment and surveillance testing for COVID-19.

Chavez said district administrators will take questions from community members through the streaming service’s live chat.



They are likely to face some opposition to the mask mandate.

A few dozen people who gathered Saturday at Alta Vista Street and St. Francis Drive said they were protesting the Public Education Department’s COVID-19 guidelines, issued July 26.

Lauren Becerra of Eldorado said she wouldn’t send her 6-year-old to school if he had to wear to a mask.

“Kids can’t breathe,” Santa Fe resident David Mulberry, another protester at the event, said of masks.

At least three teachers from Santa Fe schools attended the protest.

Last week, the Public Education Department said administrators would review the CDC recommendations issued July 27. As of Monday, however, state education officials had not indicated whether they would make changes to the public school guidelines.

Coronavirus case counts in the state have escalated rapidly since early July. Between Saturday and Monday, the state recorded 1,076 new cases. That compares with a three-day count of 636 the previous Monday and 301 on July 13.

Over the Fourth of July weekend, the state reported just 203 cases over a four-day period, from Saturday to Tuesday.

According to the New Mexico Department of Health, 74.9 percent of residents in Santa Fe County are fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

County numbers for kids ages 12 to 17 were not available, but statewide, just over 21 percent of kids 12 to 15 are vaccinated, and 42.8 percent of 16- and 17-year-olds are inoculated, state data show.

No vaccine has received federal emergency authorization for children under 12.

Chavez said Santa Fe Public Schools is still working to update its disciplinary policies for those who violate the mask requirement.

The district also is trying to find ways to collect voluntary data on vaccination rates among staff and students. Chavez said that data could be used to update the mask rule at the end of the month.

(38) comments

Lupe Molina

Diego Mondragon provides the best comment here: "Thanks for your Godly advice Dr. Molly. But in fact, my 12 year old daughter got infected with Covid, at school, brought it home to her Type 1 Diabetic mother, who is fully vaccinated, yet still is fighting for her life in ICU. But so glad that you have saved us all with your input. Now we can breathe."

If you say "if you're vaccinated, then it's none of your business" or ".26% of children survive." the incidence Diego describes is exactly why you are wrong. By the way .26% mortality rate is 1 in 400 kids. Is that worth it?! What if it was your kid?! Quit it with anti-science, entitled grandstanding and just do the right thing. It's a thin piece of cloth over your face or a shot in the arm. Grow up.

Diego Mondragon

Thanks Lupe! Long story short, the Dr. said that had their mother not been vaccinated, no way she would have survived this, which now she is going to, in fact.

An outbreak with kids at a school and now even better so, a moron teacher may be facing criminal charges for telling the kids to take their masks off in class.

But we'll just listen to these God's who prey the SF New Mexican to put up their Godly advice. They know what needs to happen. Not the poor doctors and nurses who now have their hands full yet again.

Vince Czarnowski

So in other words, this school year will be just as bad as last year's. NM will continue to be in last place, but don't you worry, they'll be wearing masks.

mark Coble

Almost as if further dumbing down is the goal? Seems so.

Matthew Rawlings

Looks who's in charge. Must be working.

William Craig

https://www.newsweek.com/fauci-said-masks-not-really-effective-keeping-out-virus-email-reveals-1596703

Reported by Newsweek: ". . . Fauci . . . replies to an email from Sylviа Burwell. . . . Fauci wrote: ' . . . The typical mask you buy in the drug store is not really effective in keeping out virus, which is small enough to pass through material. It might, however, provide some slight benefit in keep [sic] out gross droplets . . ."

The email recipient Sylvia Burwell was a top executive at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and a Rhodes scholar. She is now a director of the Council on Foreign Relations, of which Jeffrey Epstein was an “enthusiastic member” and of which current members include George Soros, Sir Henry Kissinger, Sir Michael Bloomberg, etc., etc., etc.

Mike Johnson

Thank you for the scientific truth the facts show.[thumbup]

Lupe Molina

So masks do work. Thanks!

Janis Roller

I’m vaccinated and still wear a mask in in-door situations with people I don’t know. Children having to mask up indoors is a small price to pay to be able to continue their in-person education and protect their families.

Molly Mix

Nothing like demanding someone completely removed and unrelated to you be compromised to make you sleep better at night. Why do you wear a mask indoors if you're vaccinated? Do you not trust the scientific miracle that is the vaccine you got?

Mike Johnson

People who believe masks, with no scientific standards or clinical trials, are better than a vaccine at preventing COVID, are as unscientific and ignorant as people who don't trust the vaccine to protect them enough to take it. They are the same.

David Gunter

Because the mask still protects you. The virus never guaranteed that you wouldn't become infected, only that you wouldn't suffer the worst of the disease (to something like 97% effective). The mask is there to help reduce your exposure to the virus as well as to protect others by limiting spread.

Mike Johnson

I could care less about "protecting others by limiting the spread". If you are too stupid to get vaccinated, you are not my problem, and I will not wear a mask to protect such fools. The vaccinated should not be punished because of the ignorant unvaccinated people, forcing you to wear a mask while fully vaccinated is that punishment. And the message it sends to the unvaccinated is, what's the point of being vaccinated if I am still forced to wear a mask, so no thanks.

Angel Ortiz

Good post. Seems like Dr. Mike said it all. He doesn't care about anyone but himself. Typ

mark Coble

Not much confidence in experimental shot. I understand.

Katherine Martinez

Meanwhile at our Southern border, the influx of illegal immigrants or asylum seekers, et al., continues, unabated. Their vaccination or masking status is sloppy at best. https://www.kxan.com/news/texas-politics/fact-check-are-migrants-with-covid-19-being-released-into-texas/

Jim Klukkert

Katherine Martinez posts out of date information, and leaves the impression of a continuing crisis. It is not helpful to rely upon posts from March 4, in a situation that is evolving extremely rapidly.

John Onstad

Friends:

So all SF school children will have to be masked. This will probably reduce school attendance by 50% with school funding decreased as well. Nobody wears a mask anymore! So why should our young, active and healthy children have to pay a penalty? Parents should be protesting as their kids are being penalized by this ridiculous edict! Recall the school board and Dept. of Education!! Recall Lujan!!

Molly Mix

[thumbup]

Diego Mondragon

Yes parents, PROTEST!!! As they're probably taking advantage of unemployment too. Great advice, moron.

Ernest Green

How can one credibly argue for the effectiveness of the vaccines and not for masking and distancing? Children under twelve cannot yet receive the vaccine. In lieu of this the most effective mitigating strategies available are masks and distancing which worked fairly well for local schools in the spring. There's no good alternative or valid reason not to do so again unless the argument is entirely disingenuous (John's last few sentences are more than clear on this regard).

Margaret Eyler

Poor kids :(

Lupe Molina

Better off than last year when they had to stay home because idiotic grown ups couldn't lift a finger to help their neighbors because of their idiotic twisted view if their rIgHtS

Nancy Lockland

What does this even mean? My responsibility is not to make sure my neighbors are ok. My responsibility is my family. Period.

Molly Mix

You obviously haven't been out out of the state (or read about far off places like most other states) where kids have been attending school the ENTIRE TIME with no ill effect!

Mike Johnson

So for vaccinated people, the vaccines, with months of careful scientific clinical trials proving 90-95% efficacy and higher in preventing serious illness, is less effective than flimsy masks, with no scientific standards or proof of efficacy in scientific clinical trials. This is following the science?

rodney carswell

Do your civic duty MJ and convince your fellow right wingers to get the vaccine. Or, just simply use your daily missives here to encourage that. It would be a good deed (anathema?)

Nancy Lockland

It's not a political stand point. It's a personal CHOICE!!

Mark Stahl

Would you also say that drinking and driving is a personal choice?

Molly Mix

"Right wingers" not getting the vaccine has nothing to do with it. If YOU are vaccinated then live your life. Kids have a .26% chance at BEST of dying of coronavirus, so let them live theirs. The science denial by this state is unbelievable. The rona is never going away, so if the deaths remain low then we treat it as the common cold or flu. Move on.

In addition, many of my close friends here in Santa Fe are democrats who won't get the vaccine--either because they have natural immunity or just don't want to put something foreign in their bodies. Fine, thats their choice. Enough with the "The RiGht WinGerS aRe RUINING EverYthInG Waaaa!!"

Diego Mondragon

Thanks for your Godly advice Dr. Molly. But in fact, my 12 year old daughter got infected with Covid, at school, brought it home to her Type 1 Diabetic mother, who is fully vaccinated, yet still is fighting for her life in ICU. But so glad that you have saved us all with your input. Now we can breathe.

Lupe Molina

Stop trolling. There are dozens, if not hundreds of studies out now about the efficacy of masks. Thats why the CDC recommends them. And they're real doctors!

Anne McDonald Culp

List scientific references for the hundreds of studies

Lupe Molina

Lol. No.

Nancy Lockland

You're joking right?

Molly Mix

There are also dozens, if not hundreds, of studies proving that children are NOT in danger of coronavirus!

Diego Mondragon

Thanks Dr. You've solved it all. Conclusion. You are God.

Luanne Moyer

And there are also reports that Covid cases are rising among young children. And lets not forget those children who have contracted Covid and are now suffering long term effects, or even death.

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