I wanted to take a moment and provide you some information and our thoughts on the Coronavirus, as I have had a few questions from the community and it is gaining more media attention.
In February, school districts were provided information regarding the outbreak of the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) and potential impacts to our school communities. Below is a summary of the information we currently have and what our basic plan will be moving forward.
The CDC considers COVID-2019 to be a serious public health concern based on current information, but the immediate health risk to the general U.S. public is considered low at this time.
The CDC and World Health Organization are closely monitoring the national and global situation.
Coronavirus are a family of viruses and there are different strands of coronavirus within that family, much like there are different strands of influenza viruses.
Coronavirus are not new; they are quite common and are a frequent cause of respiratory illnesses such as the common cold.
Coronaviruses tend to circulate in the fall and winter months, similar to influenza. Many people get infected with these viruses at some point in their lives.
The type of coronavirus that has recently emerged in Wuhan, China is a new type of a coronavirus and is infecting people for the first time; this means people do not have any immunity to it.
Common symptoms are similar to a respiratory illness such as cough, fever, and shortness of breath.
Early on, many of the patients in the COVID-19 outbreak in Wuhan, China had some link to a large seafood and live animal market, suggesting animal-to-person spread. Later, a growing number of patients reportedly did not have exposure to animal markets, indicating person-to-person spread. Person-to-person spread has been reported outside China, including in the United States and other locations. Chinese officials report that sustained person-to-person spread in the community is occurring in China. In addition, other destinations have apparent community spread, meaning some people have been infected who are not sure how or where they became infected.
It is unclear as of now how easily or sustainably this virus is spreading among people. Typically, with most respiratory viruses, people are thought to be most contagious when they are most symptomatic (the sickest).
More cases are likely to be identified in the coming days, including more cases in the United States. It’s also likely that person-to-person spread will continue to occur, including in the United States. Widespread transmission of COVID-19 in the United States would translate into large numbers of people needing medical care at the same time. Schools, childcare centers, workplaces, and other places for mass gatherings may experience more absenteeism. Public health and healthcare systems may become overloaded, with elevated rates of hospitalizations and deaths. Other critical infrastructure, such as law enforcement, emergency medical services, and transportation industry may also be affected. Health care providers and hospitals may be overwhelmed. At this time, there is no vaccine to protect against COVID-19 and no medications approved to treat it. Nonpharmaceutical interventions would be the most important response strategy.
Covering coughs and sneezes with a tissue or into your sleeve, not your hands.
Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
Wash hands often for at least 20 seconds, especially after coughing or sneezing. Use alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available.
Stay home from class or work if you are sick.
Avoid people who are sick. Consider a flu shot.
Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces and objects.
While the immediate risk of this new virus to the American public is believed to be low at this time, everyone can do their part to help us respond to this emerging public health threat:
It’s currently flu and respiratory disease season and CDC recommends getting a flu vaccine, taking everyday preventive actions to help stop the spread of germs, and taking flu antivirals if prescribed.
If you are a healthcare provider, be on the look-out for people who recently traveled from China and have fever and respiratory symptoms. If you are a healthcare provider caring for a COVID-19 patient or a public health responder, please take care of yourself and follow recommended infection control procedures.
If you have been in China or have been exposed to someone sick with COVID-19 in the last 14 days, you will face some limitations on your movement and activity. Please follow instructions during this time. Your cooperation is integral to the ongoing public health response to try to slow the spread of this virus. If you develop COVID-19 symptoms, contact your healthcare provider, and tell them about your symptoms and your travel or exposure to a COVID-19 patient. For people who are ill with COVID-19, please follow CDC guidance on how to reduce the risk of spreading your illness to others.
What We Are Doing and Considering . . .
At the building level, we are discussing the concepts of good hygiene. In addition, administration is meeting with custodians to reinforce the already existing cleaning and disinfecting plan for the entire district. Our school nurses and staff will be vigilant for any signs or symptoms of respiratory illness.
We are being given clear guidance that at this time there is no need to cancel school or school-related events. We will remind students of good respiratory hygiene at school as usual.
The CDC recommends that school districts continue their usual processes to clean schools; additional measures are not recommended. We always believe in cleaning thoroughly.
Nancy Messonnier, the Director of the CDC's National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Disease, told reporters, "The question is no longer if the coronavirus will spread across the United States but when it will happen." We are being given the guidance to plan for the worst. This is a proactive response.
We are currently developing our full contingency plan and are considering all options. This is not a simple discussion because it is a complicated situation.
New Jersey Administrative Code and Statutes are clear. Under current New Jersey Statute we must hold at least 180 days of school.
Under current New Jersey Administrative Code, a day in session shall be a day on which the school is open and students are under the guidance and direction of a teacher or teachers engaged in the teaching process. Days on which school is closed for such reasons as holidays, teachers' institutes, and inclement weather shall not be considered as days in session. In addition, code defines a school day as a day that consists of not less than four hours.
So, under current Statute and Code, we need 180 days, school must be technically open, and students must be under the guidance of a teacher engaged in the teaching process.
Knowing all of these facts, and seeing how complicated matters can be, we are awaiting specific guidance from the New Jersey Department of Education before we can truly finalize our plan to ensure we will meet the requirements of New Jersey Code and Statute. As soon as we receive specific guidance, we will disseminate to you the specific plan. Please know that we will carry out the directives that are provided along with working hand in hand with our township. In the end, we are committed to providing each and every student the very best education possible under pandemic circumstances.
Things to Discuss AGAIN With Your Children & Do in the House
Talk to your child about how to properly wash his/her hands. (Even though I know you already have!)
Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing. If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. Always wash hands with soap and water if hands are visibly dirty.
Discuss the importance of not touching the eyes, nose, or mouth.
Keep kids home if they are sick.
Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.