VEGUITA — A staff member at an elementary school in the far southern reaches of the Belen Consolidated Schools district has tested positive for COVID-19 after a round of random surveillance testing.
“Belen Consolidated Schools is one of the districts that has started random surveillance testing of 5 percent of our staff,” said BCS Superintendent Diane Vallejos on Thursday, Oct. 1. “The individual was asymptomatic.”
The district does random testing on 5 percent of its staff at each of its buildings every Wednesday, and a La Promesa Elementary employee was one of the group selected at the school this week, Vallejos said, adding that the employee was not a teacher.
“The employee was identified as positive and the district immediately took action to identify anyone who had close contact with them,” the superintendent said.
Close contact is defined as a person within six feet for more than three minutes.
“Every individual who met that criteria was notified, sent home and has been scheduled for testing,” she said. “We worked with the New Mexico Department of Health and New Mexico (Public Education Department) and they informed us we needed to close the office for 24 hours and deep clean it as per protocol.”
Vallejos said as an extra precaution, the dining area at the school was also closed and cleaned since the employee had been in there but had not been in close contact with anyone in that area.
“Those who were identified as being in close contact with the employee will have to wait five to seven days before their scheduled test, due to the incubation period of the virus after an exposure,” she said. “We are following all the protocols as prescribed by PED and DOH; both have been very helpful throughout this process.”
The superintendent said surveillance testing is helpful in identifying people who are positive for COVID-19 but have no symptoms, as was the case with this employee.
“We don’t want anyone to contract the virus so we need to know if someone has it so we can control the spread,” Vallejos said.
This is the first positive case for the district since hybrid classes resumed last month. La Promesa is in the community of Veguita in northern Socorro County.
The office and dining area will be reopened on Monday, Oct. 5.
Anyone with questions or concerns should call the district at 966-1271.
If you feel you have any symptoms of COVID-19, please contact the Department of Health Coronavirus Hotline at 1-855-600-3453.
Julia M. Dendinger began working at the VCNB in 2006. She covers Valencia County government, Belen Consolidated Schools and the village of Bosque Farms. She is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists Rio Grande chapter’s board of directors.