EUNICE, N.M. (KRQE) – The flu epidemic hitting so many New Mexicans shut down an entire New Mexico school district Friday. Administrators say not only were too many students sick but so were teachers.
“I felt like we would not have enough subs to cover for today,” said Eunice schools superintendent, Dwain Haynes.
The Eunice school district, south of Hobbs, has found itself in an unexpected situation. The flu has taken over.
“Yesterday, I called for numbers and I found out that the elementary had 37 kiddos out, the middle school 39 kids out and high school averaged 44 kids out for a total of 120,” explained Haynes.
With just 790 kids in the school system, that is 15 percent of the student body and that does not include staff.
“I called for the numbers of absences in our teachers and that one became alarming,” he noted.
About 15 percent of staff also reported flu-like illnesses. That convinced Haynes the best thing to do was to close down school for the day.
“I decided yesterday to release the kids. Any of our teachers and staff that were feeling good, we had them come in. The rest, stay home and get themselves healed up,” Haynes said.
While they rest, some are busier than ever.
“The maintenance is on a full-on barrage of clean, clean, clean,” Haynes said.
They focused on wiping down doors, water fountains, paper towel dispensers and anything else that gets touched by infected hands.
“Monday we are going to come back in here with our hair on fire and we’re going to get after it and continue and resume educating our babies.”
Doctors say someone with the flu can be contagious for five to seven days. The Health Department has New Mexico’s flu rate at 7.3 percent, one percent higher than the national average. In average years, the national rate is 2 percent.