The state continues to investigate how a COVID-19 outbreak at the New Mexico Behavioral Health Institute started and spread to include at least 36 people at the Las Vegas, N.M., facility.

Department of Health spokesman Matt Bieber wrote in an email an asymptomatic employee may have spread the virus to others.

“Staff are screened each day and do not work if they have any symptoms or known exposures,” Bieber wrote. “But it appears that a staff member was working while not knowing they were infected or demonstrating any symptoms.”

According to the Department of Health, the first case was reported Dec. 13. As of Tuesday, every family member and guardian of the residents had been notified, Bieber wrote.

Residents of institute’s nursing facility do not leave except for medical appointments, Bieber wrote. When they depart, residents are required to quarantine in a “special unit” for 14 days upon their return.

On Monday, the Department of Health confirmed 36 individuals at the institute tested positive for the virus and have been quarantined. The department said 14 of the cases are already out of the 10-day exposure window.

On Tuesday, the institute began vaccinating staff and uninfected residents, and it will begin vaccinating positive residents as soon as it is safe to do so, Bieber wrote.

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