The Coronavirus Disease, known better as COVID-19, has people around the country and world thinking about their health and how to avoid further spread in the community.
While the Peoria Unified School District has not had to deal with a case of the virus, the district is taking precautions while not trying to stir up any hysteria.
“We’re not considering new policies at this time, as we have robust emergency response and health-related policies, however, we most certainly are prepared should we have to respond to infectious disease outbreak in our community,” said Danielle Airey, PUSD’s chief communications officer, Wednesday.
“We have assembled a task force concentrating specifically on this (COVID-19) and we are continuously monitoring updates from our state agencies. We will adjust or enact our protocols as needed.”
The Maricopa County Department of Public Health advises the following on its website in the COVID-19 Schools section (maricopa.gov/5493/Schools):
“Many parents and school officials have expressed concern about the potential of school closures. If there was a case of COVID-19 at a school, we would work closely with the school to issue recommendations made with consideration to student and staff health and safety, how to continue learning, and impact on the community.
“From past experience, we know students whose school is closed tend to spend time together in other areas during the times they would normally be in school. This does not decrease the risk of spread of disease, so recommendations for school closures are highly unlikely and would have to include alternative arrangements for students.”
In a section titled “What schools can do,” the Department of Public Health lists the following:
• Implement your annual seasonal influenza plan.
• Students and staff who are ill, especially with acute respiratory symptoms (not allergies or chronic conditions), should stay home.
• Review sick policies for staff; ensure staff can stay home when ill.
• Ensure prescribed cleaning is happening at school facilities (routine disinfectants are appropriate).
• Enhance cleaning of high touch surfaces like doorknobs, toilet handles, and sink handles.
• Ensure hand sanitizer, soap/paper towels and tissues are widely available in school facilities.
• Remind students to cover their coughs/sneezes with a tissue or their elbow.
• Ensure parents/guardians have a plan to designate a caregiver for a sick child(ren) if parents/guardians can’t stay home.
• Look for opportunities to address food insecurity for families who rely on schools for breakfast and/or lunch.
• Identify at-home learning opportunities during student absences or school closures.
• Identify how the school will communicate updates to parents/guardians.
The Maricopa County Department of Public Health mailed a letter to parents Feb. 28. The letter stated the virus is believed to spread primarily the same way as a common cold or flu, through respiratory droplets produced from coughs or sneezes.
The letter urged parents to follow these guidelines to keep the virus from spreading further:
• Keep children home when they are sick. Students (and parents/guardians) who are ill, especially with acute respiratory symptoms (not allergies or chronic conditions), should stay home.
• Teach your children to always cover their cough and sneezes with a tissue or elbow.
• Remind them to wash their hands with soap and water (or use hand sanitizer) after they touch their face, use the restroom and before they eat.
• Tell children to avoid touching their mouths and nose since it is how germs get into the body.
• Clean frequently touched surfaces and objects (everyday household disinfectants are fine). Enhance cleaning of high touch surfaces like doorknobs, toilet handles, and sink handles.
• Plan for when community spread occurs.
• Ensure you have a plan to designate a caregiver, such as a family member or neighbor, for a sick child(ren) if you can’t stay home.
• Know your child’s school plan to communicate with you when needed, such as robocalls, email or checking their website.
PUSD is encouraging families and their children to follow these guidelines, and are taking some precautions of their own.
“As always, we are promoting proper handwashing, general cleanliness, staying home when not feeling well, etc.,” Airey said.
“We are also deep cleaning our schools, as always, paying special attention to door handles and common surfaces.”