Using data to understand COVID-19

Updated: 1/13/2021

Each member of the NMSU community should continue to screen their health for COVID-19 symptoms. We have developed an online self-check and self-reporting portal, available on the homepage and the site, to help with screening and contact tracing. Students, employees and visitors should perform a daily self-check and, as relevant, register locations visited on campus to help Aggie Health and Wellness contact tracers identify additional potential contacts.

People with who feel ill or have symptoms of COVID-19 must remain at home or in their residence halls. They need to contact a health care provider, get tested for COVID-19, and report a positive result online.

Monitoring data

NMSU leadership closely monitors daily reports from the New Mexico Department of Health to understand, down to the level of ZIP codes, the trends of COVID-19 in the community. An online COVID-19 data dashboard provides a snapshot of that data daily, Monday through Friday, and for each week. These reports help us understand trends in data like new infections, recoveries, and hospital capacity.

A careful review of the data from the 2020-21 academic year suggests that our campus was successful in preventing widespread outbreaks of COVID-19. As COVID-19 cases in Doña Ana County rose, we saw a corresponding, but much lower, rise of cases on campus in employees and students.

Responding to a surge in COVID-19 cases

NMSU administration is committed to limiting campus activities if needed to reduce viral spread. No single measure can capture the risk to public health during a pandemic, so we regularly monitor conditions and consult with experts from NMSU plus local and state health authorities, to support science and evidence-based decisions. Possible triggers include:  

  • Positivity rates of COVID-19 calculated by population that are higher on any of the campuses than in the county in which they reside, and are deemed a public health risk through consultation with NMSU experts plus local and state health authorities. 
  • Local hospitals approach capacity for ICU beds.

In addition to daily monitoring of regional COVID-19 trends, NMSU leadership meets frequently with campus experts to assess trends in critical metrics. These meetings could trigger actions and data collection to better assess the situation. Examples of these actions include:

  • Increased testing for COVID-19 for specific groups of students, faculty and staff, with contact tracing for positive cases;
  • Understanding contributory factors regarding outbreaks possibly associated with on-campus transmission and the rapid response and contact tracing conducted by Aggie Health and Wellness to ensure proper isolation/quarantine protocols;
  • Reviewing related rules and policies;
  • Closing buildings to instruction and restricting campus activities; and
  • Communicating with the campus community.

In the event of a surge in cases or a change in state or federal guidance, the university – or specific departments or classes – could pivot to fully online course delivery and stay-at-home restrictions. Student services such as residential life and dining would continue as essential services.

Maintaining flexibility

Pedagogies such as hybrid teaching allow faculty to switch from face-to-face to online environment quickly. NMSU’s Alternative Work Arrangements policy facilitates telework and is supported by a decision tree for managers. Every department must review and revise continuity of operations plans to include plans for a return to telework.

However, Alternative Work Arrangements do not exempt employees from complying with the requirement to be fully vaccinated by Jan. 18, 2022, and to receive a booster shot when eligible or submit weekly COVID-19 test results.