Guidance from health agencies at the federal, state and county level is listed below, along with a quote from the website of the California Department of Education (CDE). All include precautions for schools to take while remaining open. None of the agencies have recommended school closures, unless a case or cases of COVID-19 is identified in the district.
To date, there have been two cases of coronavirus in Stanislaus County, and no deaths in the area related to the disease. Neither of those cases involve residents of Patterson.
CDC guidelines, updated March 4
The federal Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the state California Department of Public Health (CDPH) and the Stanislaus County Health Services Agency have all issued guidelines for schools, none which have recommended closure.
From the CDC website:
“What actions should school and childcare program administrators take to plan for an outbreak?”
“Administrators of childcare programs and K-12 schools should take the following actions to plan and prepare for COVID-19:
Review, update, and implement school emergency operation plans, particularly for infectious disease outbreaks.
Emphasize actions for students and staff to take such as staying home when sick; appropriately covering coughs and sneezes; and washing hands often.
Cleaning frequently touched surfaces.
Monitor and plan for absenteeism.
Review the usual absenteeism patterns at your school among both students and staff.
Review attendance and sick leave policies. Encourage students and staff to stay home when sick. Use flexibility, when possible, to allow staff to stay home to care for sick family members.
Alert local health officials about increases in absences, particularly those that appear due to respiratory illnesses.
Monitor and plan for addressing fear and bullying related to COVID-19.
Communicate early and repeatedly with parents directly what the policies and procedures will be to allow parents to assure proper guardianship and care of children.
“What actions can staff and students take to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in my school/childcare program?”
“Encourage students and staff to take everyday preventive actions to prevent the spread of respiratory illnesses, such as staying home when sick; appropriately covering coughs and sneezes; cleaning frequently touched surfaces; and washing hands often with soap and water. 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. Remember to supervise young children when they use hand sanitizer to prevent swallowing alcohol, especially in childcare facilities.”
If someone is sick
The agency also advises schools to “establish procedures to ensure students and staff who become sick at school or who arrive at school sick are sent home as soon as possible. Keep sick students and staff separate from well students and staff until sick students and staff can be sent home.”
Should schools screen for COVID-19?
“Schools and childcare programs are not expected to screen children, students, or staff to identify cases of COVID-19. The majority of respiratory illnesses are not COVID-19. If a community or school has cases of COVID-19, local health officials will help identify those individuals and will follow up on next steps.”
When schools should close
“You may need to use temporary school dismissals of 14 days, or possibly longer, if a student or staff member attended school before being confirmed as having COVID-19. Any decision about school dismissal or cancellation of school events should be made in coordination with your local health officials. Schools are not expected to make decisions about dismissal and event cancellation independent of their local health officials. Dismissal and event cancellation decisions should be considered on a case-by-case basis using information from health officials about the local conditions.” The fact sheet also indicates that performances, field trips and sporting events should be cancelled in the event of a school closure.
The CDC website also lists the following general guidance:
“Mildly ill patients should be encouraged to stay home and contact their healthcare provider by phone for guidance about clinical management. Patients who have severe symptoms, such as difficulty breathing, should seek care immediately. Older patients and individuals who have underlying medical conditions or are immunocompromised should contact their physician early in the course of even mild illness.”
CDPH Guidance for Schools, updated March 7
From the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) website: “This guidance is based on what is currently known about the transmission and severity of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). The California Department of Public Health (CDPH), in consultation with the California Department of Education (CDE), will update this guidance as needed and as additional information becomes available.
Review and update comprehensive school safety plans, including continuity plans for teaching and learning if students are absent from school.
Exclude students, teachers, or staff who have a travel history over the course of the last 14 days to an area identified by the CDC as Level 3 Travel Health Notice (see Evaluating and Reporting Persons Under Investigation by the CDC). Additionally, exclude those who have been in close contact with someone diagnosed with COVID-19 from the school for 14 days from the day of their last exposure.
Send students, teachers, and staff who present with fever and/or respiratory infection symptoms home immediately. Separate them from others until they go home. When feasible, identify a “sick room” through which others do not regularly pass.
Coordinate with all partner organizations serving students to ensure consistent practices.
Encourage flu vaccine for those persons over 6 months of age who have not had it this season.
Develop a plan to communicate with the school community.
Contact your county emergency operations center if it has been is established or your local public health department immediately if you notice any concerning clusters of respiratory disease or spikes in absenteeism. For contact information, please search the local public health department website.”
Stanislaus County Health Services Agency
Following is the text from the Stanislaus County Health Services Agency, which indicates it was adapted from Public Health – Seattle and King County:
What is coronavirus?
Coronavirus (COVID-19) is a disease caused by a new virus that causes respiratory illness in people and is spread from person-to-person.
How does coronavirus spread?
While health experts are still learning the details about how COVID-19 spreads, it is commonly spread from an infected person to others through:
The air by coughing and sneezing
Face-to-face contact for a prolonged period of time
Touching an object or surface with the virus o it, then touching your mouth, nose or eyes
What are the symptoms?
People who have been diagnosed with COVID-19 have reported symptoms that may appear in as few as two days or as long as 14 days after exposure to the virus: fever, difficulty breathing, cough
How can I prevent from getting novel coronavirus?
Wash hands often with soap and water. If not available, use hand sanitizer
Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands
Avoid contact with people who are sick
Stay home while you are sick and avoid close contact with others
Cover your mouth/nose with a tissue or sleeve when coughing or sneezing
Get a flu shot
Steps you can take to prevent spread of flu and the common cold will also help prevent COVID-19.
Currently, there are no vaccines available to prevent COVID-19 infections. Most people with illness not requiring hospitalization are able to recover on their own by drinking plenty of fluids, resting, and taking pain and fever medications. However, some cases develop pneumonia requiring medical care and may require hospitalization.
Statement from the CDE website:
“At this time, the health risk to the general public in California from Coronavirus (COVID-19) remains low, but schools can take common-sense precautions to prevent the spread of all infectious diseases. (Emphasis in copy.) These precautions will be helpful to also prevent the spread of other common illnesses such as influenza and gastroenteritis.”
CDC website: www.cdc.gov. CDPH website: www.cdph.ca.gov. Stanislaus County Health Services Agency, www.schsa.org. CDE website: www.cde.ca.gov. All have links to coronavirus information and guidelines.