Spring COVID protocols
February 21, 2022
Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, NMHU has adhered to Center for Disease Control (CDC) and the State of New Mexico guidelines regarding masking, as set forth by the governor’s office, the New Mexico Department of Health (NMDOH), and the New Mexico Higher Education Department (NMHED).
On Thursday, February 17, 2022, Governor Michelle Lujan-Grisham ended the statewide mask mandate. As a public institution, NMHU will follow that guidance. NMHU now recommends that all members of the university community wear a mask in public, indoor settings, but wearing a mask is no longer required effective Monday, February 21, 2022.
On a personal note, I would like to thank the governor for her leadership in this difficult time. Despite the ending of the mask mandate, I will continue to wear a mask when I am in crowded public places, as this remains an effective method to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19. I strongly encourage all members of the university community to receive the vaccine and, when eligible, the booster. NMHU’s booster reporting mandate remains in effect, with a deadline of February 25 to upload your booster information into Banner.
The university will always support any employee or student who wishes to wear a mask. NMHU’s other COVID mitigation practices remain in place, including social distancing, limited building and classroom capacities, contact tracing, isolation of positive cases, recommended frequent hand washing, the vaccine and booster reporting requirement, and requiring any student, staff, or faculty member who’s experiencing COVID-19 symptoms to stay home.
As with previous events, the Highlands’ goals for our response to the pandemic are:
• The safety of our students, faculty, staff and campus visitors
• The continuation of our core mission: teaching our students
• Strive towards the least impact for our students and employees, including regular, on-time payroll
I would like to thank the campus community for your continued efforts to serve our students in this evolving situation.
January 11, 2022
To ensure safety on the main campus and the centers, we are enforcing our vaccine reporting mandate and we will be dropping students from face-to-face classes beginning on Thursday, Jan. 13, 2022, if they have not complied with either uploading their vaccine card or their regular COVID test results. Students who are dropped from in-person learning will be able to remain enrolled and take online classes.
Students, faculty, and staff at HU who have a vaccine exemption of any kind will be required to test twice a week and upload their results into Banner. The tests must be taken at least 72 hours apart. HU currently offers testing three times a week at Melody Park on Tuesdays from 10-11:30 a.m., Thursdays from 2-3:30 p.m., and on Saturday from 10-11:30 a.m. Appointments can be scheduled at https://curative.com/. Students, staff, and faculty at HU centers can find available testing locations on this link, too. It can take 48 hours or longer to receive test results, so please plan ahead to meet the bi-weekly testing submission deadlines. People with exemptions who choose to test will be responsible for the cost of the tests, unless otherwise approved by the university.
All students living in residence halls will be required to submit a COVID test result at the beginning of the semester prior to returning to campus, or within 72 hours of moving back into the residence halls. This will begin immediately with the spring 2022 semester.
All students, staff, and employees will be encouraged to test before and after any out-of-state travel.
We will also be initiating a voluntary testing surveillance program to encourage students, staff, and faculty to test regularly and submit results to the university. This will help us identify cases early so we can help curb community spread. Those participating will be eligible for random prize drawings over the semester.
HU has adopted the updated New Mexico Department of Health, or NMDOH, guidelines for quarantine and isolation for close contacts and people who have tested positive for COVID. The guidelines differ depending on whether you are unvaccinated or vaccinated and/or boosted. For some people, quarantining or isolating is reduced to five days, but in accordance with NMDOH guidelines, HU is strongly encouraging testing on day five before returning to school or work. The new NMDOH guidelines can be found in full here: https://cv.nmhealth.org/2022/01/07/14062/.
Given the increased infectiousness of the Omicron variant, HU will be rolling out a new booster shot requirement for those who are eligible according to CDC guidelines. Those eligible for a booster will be required to submit proof of booster vaccination to Banner by Feb. 25, 2022. Students, staff, and faculty with exemptions can continue to submit COVID test results twice a week in lieu of submitting booster verification. Look for more information about this in the next week.
If you are experiencing COVID symptoms, we strongly encourage you to remain home until you can get tested. If possible, seek out a PCR test rather than a rapid test you can self-administer. If your test result comes back negative but you are still experiencing symptoms, please remain home until your symptoms resolve, as per NMDOH guidelines.
Masking will continue to be emphasized on the main campus and at all centers. We will be increasing signage about masking requirements and launching more educational materials to encourage masking.
Previous COVID policies such as social distancing and restricting capacity to 50% in buildings will continue to remain in effect.
Finally, we will be restructuring the Emergency Operations Center team into a COVID Response Team which focuses on COVID case management. Unfortunately, COVID is sticking around and has become a regular part of life, so we are moving away from emergency management and into day-to-day COVID policy management which will be overseen by the Executive Leadership Team.
As much as I personally want to see everything get back to normal, I know that we can’t get there without a collective effort.
I continue to remain concerned about mental health and I want to encourage everyone to continue to be flexible where you are able. If you are struggling, don’t hesitate to reach out to an advisor, teacher, or supervisor if you need help coming up with a solution that will work for your circumstances. This is a tough time, but I have no doubt we’ll get through it if we all work together and support each other.
President Minner’s Priorities
- The safety of our students, faculty, staff and campus visitors;
- The continuation of our core mission: teaching our students;
- Strive towards the least impact for our students and employees, including regular, on-time payroll.