James Holloway, provost and executive vice president for academic affairs at the University of New Mexico, confirmed in an interview with the Daily Lobo on Feb. 21 that spring break is still on schedule.
“We hope that spring break can happen as planned and that students can take advantage of the break to recharge safely,” Holloway said.
The decision falls in line with UNM’s spring 2021 plans listed on the "Bringing Back the Pack" page which, as of the last update on Jan. 6, said, “We expect that spring break will occur as planned, and there is no remote instruction period planned at the end of the term.”
“We don’t anticipate making any changes to the spring break schedule,” Holloway said. “If COVID case numbers were to rise, we would redouble our efforts to communicate good public health practices to all of our community — students, staff and faculty.”
While the previous decision to split 2020’s fall break into separate chunks was designed to discourage travel and help mitigate community spread of the virus, Holloway said spring break wasn’t changed because “there is only one long break period, and we know that our students can greatly benefit from some time to step safely away from the day-to-day pace of their academic work.”
Although the University has some concerns about a possible post-spring break rise in COVID cases, Holloway said it doesn’t have to be an inevitability.
“Yes, we certainly are concerned about a post-break surge of cases,” Holloway said. “(But) if we all practice good public health habits – wear that mask, socially distance, wash our hands, limit our close contacts to our small social bubble and avoid crowds, enjoy the outdoors of New Mexico and remain in the state, then there’s no reason that a post-break surge need happen.”
In the event that a surge does occur, however, Holloway said that the University would “pivot to more remote work if we need to.”
Holloway and the University both advised against unnecessary out-of-state travel, especially because of travel advisories in place at the state level.
According to the "Bringing Back the Pack" page, if students travel for spring break “it is likely they will have to quarantine for two weeks upon return, and this could impact their study plans.”
Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, who recently phased out travel quarantine requirements, also urged vigilance when traveling.
“Please consider continuing to limit travel to only what is necessary for your work and family,” Lujan Grisham said. “This is the best way to ensure our progress is sustained, and we can continue to save lives and protect New Mexicans’ health and livelihoods.”
Air travel in New Mexico has taken a massive hit since the beginning of the pandemic. The Albuquerque International Sunport reported about 3.6 million fewer passengers in 2020 compared to the year prior — a 66% dropoff — according to the Albuquerque Journal.
Among the UNM students that spoke with the Lobo, many expressed that they won’t be traveling for spring break.
Bo Russell, a senior and multimedia journalism major, said they currently have no plans to go back to their home town in Oregon during spring break but may travel outside of the state to go camping.
“I would feel safe traveling because I would be camping, making sure I have little to no contact with other people of that state,” Russell said.
Russell said they were considering going to either Colorado or Arizona for the break, but “whether I travel or not depends on if I feel safe in the next coming weeks.”
Others, like graduate student Annalise Porter, have no plans on leaving the state.
“(I’m) not planning to go out of state while COVID is still around — the most I might get to ‘traveling’ is taking my dogs to Hotel Luna Mystica to make some kind of occasion out of the week,” Porter said.
Spencer Butler is a beat reporter at the Daily Lobo. He can be contacted at email@example.com or on Twitter @SpencerButler48