New Mexico Tech will be requiring students and staff to either be vaccinated for COVID-19 or have proof of weekly negative COVID tests by the end of the month.
The university’s Board of Regents held an emergency meeting with the school’s President Stephen Wells about COVID-19 Monday. The board entered an executive session to discuss the pandemic in relation to personnel and legal matters.
After an executive session, Wells said he wants to issue a directive that will require all employees and students to provide proof of vaccination or proof of weekly negative testing, starting Tuesday, August 31. Daycare center employees and clinic employees will all have to be vaccinated, unless they have a documented religious or health reason for not being vaccinated. The regents unanimously endorsed the directive.
“We appreciate that you and your COVID task force have extensively studied this and also checked with different stakeholders about what their needs are,” said Board Chair Deborah Peacock.
The directive will also acknowledge that as the situation evolves, requiring vaccination campus wide could be considered as a potential future action. A campus wide requirement would still have exemptions for religious or medical reasons, said Wells.
COVID-19 testing is available on campus through Curative, a New Mexico Department of Health testing partner. If someone has no insurance, the test is free. If they have insurance their insurance is billed. People should talk to their insurance providers if they have any question about whether surveillance testing is covered, said COVID pandemic support specialist Stephanie Plant.
In the spring semester, they were providing approximately 200 tests per week and in the summer it was 40 or 60 tests per week, said Plant. With the new directive, they expect the need to increase to approximately 600 tests per week on campus. They have already seen an increase in demand for tests as other employers in the area have made vaccines or negative tests mandatory, said Plant.
“Surveillance testing is an important part of community health and we’re committed to providing it to New Mexico Tech and to the community, because all of our health is dependent on each other’s health,” said Plant.
Another state recommended testing option is Vault Health, said Plant, where people can order a test online, receive it in the mail and then schedule a tele health appointment with Vault so a provider can watch the oral swab test conducted. The person mails the test back to get their results.
As of Monday, details like how to apply for a religious or medical exemption were still being worked out, said Director of Marketing and Communications Dave Lepre.
Both the University of New Mexico and New Mexico State University have issued vaccine mandates.