Cases of COVID-19 spike following holidays, and we are currently experiencing the increase expected after Labor Day. This spike is not inevitable. The most effective strategies to reduce transmission have been understood for months and are well documented in the NMSU Ready plan.
Given our current spike of cases in New Mexico and our region, I am reminding everyone that we all need to be vigilant – on campus and off – so that we can continue to meet our mission and keep our Aggie community healthy.
This is not an easy task.
The 14-day trend of COVID-19 cases in New Mexico is up by 88 percent; we are fortunate to share strong ties with Texas, but Texas is struggling, too, with nearly 1,278 cases reported in El Paso alone during the week of Sept. 25–Oct. 1. For comparison, the entire state of New Mexico reported 1,174 cases for those same days.
We know that cases are most likely coming from off-campus sources. During contact tracing, many people with positive tests are reporting that they had recent contact with a family member or friend off campus who has tested positive for COVID-19. This contact tracing service performed by the Aggie Health and Wellness Center is providing invaluable information for use in directing our mitigation strategies.
But the best mitigation strategy is your vigilance. You know what to do: Wear your mask, stay at least six feet from others, and wash your hands frequently. It’s not easy to stay at least six feet from friends and family, but limiting your exposure to others, especially off campus, helps us maintain a safer learning environment on campus and helps us all stay healthy.
Be vigilant, also, about your own health. If you feel ill, especially if you are having COVID-19 symptoms such as fever, chills, shortness of breath or a dry cough, call the Aggie Health and Wellness Center at 575-646-1512 immediately to schedule a free test for COVID-19.
And if another Aggie community member tells you they do not feel well, remind them that the Aggie Health and Wellness Center can test them for COVID-19.
As we learn more about the novel coronavirus in our educational environment, we are adapting. Last week, we began requiring face shields and masks in all situations in which instructors cannot maintain at least six feet of distance with students. We will continue to adapt as needed and to communicate changes in protocols as they are made.
And finally, if needed, we are prepared to take additional measures to decrease viral transmission on campus. We have heard from many students and faculty of the value of in-person classes, but a temporary return to online courses remains an option as we balance the value of in-person instruction with the safety of our community.
You know what to do to keep our campus safe, and I am asking for your help. Wear a mask. Maintain six feet between people. And wash your hands frequently.
Be Bold, Be Kind, and Be Safe.