SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — The Public Education Department has begun reporting cases of COVID-19 linked to schools.

Five cases were reported Tuesday, including at least one student in Colfax County and one in Chavez County.

Two staff members tested positive, including one in Bernalillo County, and one in Santa Fe County where public schools are only holding classes online.

The department did not specify if the fifth case, also in Santa Fe County, involved a staff member or a student.

In-person learning began in some school districts for kindergarten through fifth grade one week ago, after their counties were deemed to have sufficiently small virus numbers. State officials started with younger children because they are at lower risk for the virus and have a harder time learning from home.

Around 50 New Mexico districts and charter schools are starting in a hybrid in-person and online structure, in which students come to school two days per week.

Education department officials aim to allow hybrid learning for middle and high school students if outbreaks are contained. The department plans to give daily case updates based on the previous day’s totals.

Many of the state's largest districts such as Albuquerque Public Schools, in Bernalillo County, plan on staying online only for virtually all students for the remainder of the year.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and a cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.

State health officials on Tuesday announced 82 additional coronavirus cases, and seven related deaths in as many counties.

Bernalillo County that encompasses Albuquerque had the most new infections with 17, followed by McKinley County with 12.

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Attanasio is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on under-covered issues. Follow Attanasio on Twitter.

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