As you are likely aware, on Tuesday, February 25th, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) gave a press conference updating the country on the current status of the coronavirus (COVID-19) and what steps should be taken moving forward. I want to share with you some of the steps our school is taking to prevent the spread of illness across our campus and to plan for the possible spread of the coronavirus in our community.
As the CDC emphasized, there is not currently a coronavirus pandemic in the United States. A pandemic occurs when a disease is spreading from a variety of sources across a large region, and the number of cases across the US is still small. However, given how quickly the global situation is evolving, we are monitoring new developments and will continue to reevaluate our steps and actions daily.
According to an article in the New York Times published last week, “Federal health officials have warned that the coronavirus is likely to appear in communities in the United States. If it does, what can you do to protect yourself and your family? Much of the advice from experts is common sense, and not much different from what you would do to dodge the flu or any other respiratory virus. The mantra is, ‘Keep calm and wash your hands’”
Specifically, the most effective way to stay healthy and minimize the spread of infectious disease is to follow basic health best practices. At school we will:
• Do everything we can to enforce great hygiene, like washing hands thoroughly, covering up coughs/sneezes, and avoiding touching eyes, noses or mouths with unwashed hands
• Keep extra supplies of soap, disinfectant cleaners, sterile gloves – all classrooms and work spaces will be provided with disinfecting wipes and hand sanitizer
• Ask all faculty, staff, and students who are feeling ill to stay home until they recover.
• Clean common surfaces on a more frequent basis with disinfectants; our custodial services department has provided guidance to school sites about this
PARENTS AND FAMILIES CAN HELP BY:
• Reminding your children about the importance of hand washing and covering coughs
• Keep your children home if they are ill until they are fully recovered; keep us informed of any serious illnesses
• DONATE WIPES AND HAND SANITIZER to your classrooms or the office – We would prefer to use environmentally friendly products when possible , like Seventh Generation.
• VOLUNTEER TO CLEAN CHROMEBOOKS – these devices touch many hands each day and require special, adult only care – If you can help, please email firstname.lastname@example.org and she will coordinate a schedule
Some have asked about the use of face masks to prevent the spread of viruses. Experts say that typical surgical masks do not protect or prevent infection, and there’s no reason to use a surgical mask if you’re healthy and not infected. The virus itself is so small that it can penetrate a surgical mask. They do recommend using a mask if you are infected and trying to prevent contaminating others. The N95 mask has to sit close to your face in order to work properly, and most of these are not suitable for children’s faces. In addition, they can create a false sense of security because people use them inconsistently, touch inside of them with dirty fingers, don’t actually cover their noses, etc.
Our school is prepared to alter our procedures and planning should we receive information from the CDC, Alameda County Health Department, and/or OUSD. We are also thinking ahead regarding the impact spring travel, upcoming school trips, and other non-typical school activities could have in the context of the coronavirus. We will communicate immediately any changes to our program as appropriate. Decisions regarding any possible school closures or program modifications would be made at the district level, and I will be sure to notify you if I hear anything of that nature. Please see the attached letter for the most recent communication regarding this virus from Superintendent Johnson-Trammel.
It is important to remember that handling the spread of a serious contagion like the coronavirus is primarily a task for public health agencies. Any directives from the World Health Organization, CDC, or local governmental organizations should be followed. At the bottom of this letter are some links to resources that might be helpful to you.
In times like this, we are particularly grateful for the strength and togetherness of this community. Please continue to look for further communications from us on this matter.