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Moving forward after the public health emergency

Posted April 5, 2023, 12:15 PM. Updated April 26, 2023, 9:13 AM.

APS is transitioning out of the emergency phase of COVID-19 and into a phase that promotes individuals following recommendations for responding to the virus.

This information can also be found on theCOVID Updates for 2022-2023 page.

It’s been three years since COVID-19 arrived in our state. Those early days were scary because we didn’t completely know what we were dealing with. 

There’s still a great deal to be learned about the virus. But the vaccines and therapeutics available – along with the immunity we’ve been able to build – have helped us get back to the lives we were living before the pandemic struck. 

Because of the progress made on COVID-19, the state and federal governments are pulling back on their emergency health orders. The state health order expired on  March 31, 2023, at which time the state Public Education Department’s COVID-19 mandates were rescinded. The federal public health emergency declaration will also be expiring soon.

As the state and federal governments move out of the emergency phase of the COVID-19 response, Albuquerque Public Schools is moving out of the emergency phase as well.  

Moving forward, as with other communicable diseases, APS will refer to the New Mexico School Health Manual for COVID-19 guidance and response procedures. The manual serves as a resource for schools and the school district, providing information on preventing, identifying, managing, and reporting outbreaks of communicable diseases in schools, including COVID-19.  

Specific to individuals who are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19, confirmed COVID-19 positive, or exposed to COVID-19, the New Mexico School Health Manual recommends following CDC guidance on isolation and precautions for people with COVID-19 and that is what APS recommends for students and employees.  

What follows is a Q&A that we hope will help you understand what’s changing, what’s staying in place, and what our recommendations are.

Does this mean that COVID-19 is no longer a threat?

COVID-19 continues to spread easily and symptoms can range from mild to severe with some people becoming seriously ill or worse. However, a vast majority recover. In essence, it’s becoming more like influenza, a potentially serious illness that we’ve learned to live with and now have tools to combat the virus.

What if I am experiencing symptoms or test positive for COVID-19?

Our recommendation is that anyone who is symptomatic or tests positive for COVID follow the CDC isolation and precautions for people with COVID-19, which includes the following:

  • If you are symptomatic or test positive for COVID-19, you should stay home for five days.
  • You can return to school or work after five days if you are fever-free for 24 hours without fever-reducing medication and your symptoms are improving.
  • A mask should be worn for five days following isolation.

Refer to the CDC list for symptoms of COVID-19

What if I am exposed to someone who has tested positive for COVID-19? 

If a student or employee is around someone who has tested positive, we recommend that CDC guidance on what to do if you were exposed to COVID-19 be followed. 

Students, who are symptom-free and who were in close contact with someone who tested positive, can go to school and participate in school-related activities regardless of vaccination status.

Employees, who are symptom-free and who were in close contact with someone who tested positive, can go to work regardless of vaccination status.

When should I keep my child home?

It is not just recommended for individuals who test positive for COVID-19 to isolate at home. There are certain conditions in which a student should not be at school when sick. The district has sick day guidelines in place to help parents determine when to keep their children home.  

When you have questions, please call your school nurse or health care provider.

Over these last three years, we’ve heard a lot about COVID-safe practices. Are those still relevant?

Absolutely. We have tools to combat COVID-19 such as:

  • Vaccines
  • Testing
  • Treatments
  • Mitigation strategies that include:
    • Staying home when you are sick,
    • Masking,
    • Hand hygiene,
    • Sneezing and coughing etiquette,
    • Increasing indoor ventilation, and
    • Social distancing.

Since the emergency phase has passed, is employee COVID-related leave being eliminated?

COVID-19-related leave will remain in place through June 30, 2023, for eligible employees in support of the expectation that employees follow recommended COVID-19 CDC guidelines. For more information visit the Extended Leaves webpage.

What about COVID-19 test kits?

While supplies last, APS schools and departments will continue to provide at-home rapid antigen COVID-19 test kits to students and employees experiencing symptoms. Test kits are distributed from schools and work sites. 

Do students and employees still have to inform their schools and supervisors if they test positive?

Schools will resume normal absence reporting practices for students. It is no longer required for positive COVID-19 cases of students to be reported to schools.  

Schools and departments may resume normal absence reporting practices for employees. It is no longer required for positive COVID-19 cases of employees to be reported to their supervisor. However, if eligible and COVID-19-related leave is being used, employees are required to report positive COVID-19 cases to their supervisor and must be prepared to verify test results. 

Additional information

Along with CDC guidance, the New Mexico Department of Health COVID-19 guidance continues to serve as a resource for information on COVID-safe practices, vaccinations, and testing.  

APS families who have questions are encouraged to contact their child’s school, and employees are encouraged to contact their supervisor.