SANTA FE, N.M (KAMR/KCIT) — Officials with the New Mexico Department of Health announced Wednesday that it has begun its distribution of a $63 million federal grant to help schools in the state pay for and execute COVID-19 testing programs.
According to a news release, the award was from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Epidemiology and Laboratory Capacity Funding program. The award is for the department to use this fiscal year to “help schools meet surveillance testing requirements and keep students and staff in schools.”
These funds will cover various resources including the costs of providing personnel to perform the surveillance testing as well as the costs for schools to hire other COVID-19-related personnel like school nurses, health assistants, social workers and mental health counselors.
“Testing and vaccination are two of the most important tools we have to protect our students, our schools, our communities, and our state,” David R. Scrase, M.D, the acting secretary of the New Mexico Department of Health, said in the release. “Thanks to this new grant, schools will have even more resources to support safe, in-person learning.”
According to the release, the state’s public education department is requiring surveillance COVID-19 testing for all schools providing in-person student services, including athletics. The goal of the testing is to detect COVID-19 outbreaks “as early as possible,” by screening asymptomatic individuals, including students and staff.
“COVID-19 surveillance testing programs test unvaccinated, asymptomatic individuals to discover undiagnosed cases and to better understand the rate of infection in the community,” the release said. “Staff and students who provide evidence of COVID-19 vaccination and those who have tested positive for COVID-19 in the past 90 days are not included in surveillance testing.”
Testing for unvaccinated and works onsite must participate in COVID-19 testing each week. Student surveillance testing for unvaccinated students are voluntary, yet strongly encourages for those participating in athletics or other extracurricular activities.
“Surveillance testing is a critical part of our protocols to keep schools safe and students and staff healthy,” Kurt Steinhaus, the public education secretary designate, said in the release. “With this grant, schools will have the funding and hands-on support they need to complete this task without pulling money from academic programs.”