Anacortes School Superintendent Mark Wenzel says district leadership is meeting regularly to address the coronavirus situation and develop plans in case of an outbreak.
Wenzel said, "I realize there is heightened awareness regarding COVID-19 and the impacts on our state and community. Our district leadership team is meeting regularly to address the situation and develop plans in case of an outbreak in Anacortes. The latest information is included in the Q&A below. Communication is important. The situation is evolving, and we will continue to share transparently as we learn more and make decisions about our school programs.
The Anacortes School District is committed to the health and safety of our staff and students and is taking precautionary measures in the event that the coronavirus impacts our community. Currently, the immediate risk to the general public in Washington and the United States is considered to be low, according to state health officials. However, this situation is rapidly evolving in our state, and we are in close contact with public health officials on necessary steps.
How severe is the virus?
Most cases are mild. The number of cases is increasing, but most of the illnesses in the U.S. and around the world are mild, with fever and cough. About 80 percent of people infected with COVID-19 have not needed hospital care, according to King County Public Health. However, a small percentage of cases are more severe and involve pneumonia, particularly in elderly people and people with underlying medical conditions. The CDC has reported the mortality rate at about two percent of confirmed cases, including six deaths in Washington state as of Monday afternoon. The Washington State Health Department reports that it appears the virus may be less severe with children. Just two percent of confirmed cases in China involve persons under the age of 20.
What is the cleaning protocol for ASD?
We follow state guidelines using a standard procedure with third party certified “green” cleaners and disinfecting with an Environmental Protection Agency-registered disinfectant known to be effective in combating viruses. We are wiping down school surfaces and buses daily.
How are school nurses addressing illness at school?
First and foremost, we urge children and staff members who feel ill to stay at home. This is true at any time, but particularly true in the face of a pandemic like COVID-19. If a student feels sick at school, our nursing staff screens for cough, fever and breathing difficulties. Any student with these symptoms will need to be picked up at school, and the family will be encouraged to notify their health care provider. Our planning includes having enough masks on hand for anyone displaying symptoms to lower the risk of spreading the virus.
What can families do?
- Practice good hygiene and encourage your children to do the same.
- Wash hands with soap and hot water for at least 20 seconds
- Don’t touch nose, eyes, or mouth with unwashed hands
- Cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue, throw it away, and wash hands
- Get a flu shot -- not for COVID19, but for the seasonal flu
- Keep your child at home when they are sick
Is it possible that school could be closed?
State officials right now are examining possible “trigger events” that could lead to recommended or mandatory cancellation of school trips, events or even the closure of schools. We are monitoring the situation closely.
How might my family plan for a school closure?
We understand that school closures present challenging obstacles to our families. We will get information to you as soon as possible regarding any possible impacts to the school schedule. In the meantime, parents may want to start considering childcare arrangements for children in case school is closed. Talk to neighbors or other parents in your child’s school about sharing childcare duties if your children are well but the school is closed. Avoid having children congregate in large groups during school closures. School closures may also affect the ability of parents and caregivers to go to work. Talk to your employer about policies for working from home or shifting work schedules if schools are closed.
What would happen in the event of a school closure?
If we need to close schools, we will communicate to families and staff as soon as that decision is made through our normal emergency communication channels, including email, voicemail, text, social media, and website.
We are investigating the viability of online school in the case of a school closure, though there are many obstacles. We are looking at this through an “equity lens;” namely, could we provide access and opportunity to all children including those with special needs and those who may not have online access at home?
Are school activities, athletics, trips and gatherings taking place as scheduled?
Yes, they are for now. County health officials have declared that possible transmission of COVID-19 remains low risk. This could change, however, as new information becomes available. We will continue to carefully monitor the situation, including out-of-region travel to statewide or regional gatherings of students and educators.
What else can I do beyond practicing good hygiene and staying home if sick?
Health experts encourage us not to panic and to remember to be kind to others. These situations can sometimes bring out anxiety and fear; we must push back against any inclination to stigmatize others. Talk to your friends and neighbors about how you can help each other if people in your households get sick or if your children aren’t able to go to school or childcare.
How long does the virus stay alive on surfaces?
Recent research in the Journal of Hospital Infection concluded that human coronaviruses can remain infectious on inanimate surfaces for up to nine days at room temperature. However, they can quickly be rendered inactive using common disinfectants, and may also dissipate at higher temperatures. It is not yet clear, however, whether COVID-19 behaves in a similar way.
How do you treat COVID-19?
According to the CDC, there is no vaccine to protect individuals against human coronaviruses and there are no specific treatments for illnesses caused by human coronaviruses. Most people with common human coronavirus illness will recover on their own. However, to relieve your symptoms you can:
- take pain and fever medications (Caution: do not give aspirin to children)
- use a room humidifier or take a hot shower to help ease a sore throat and cough
- drink plenty of liquids
- stay home and rest
- Skagit County Public Health
- Washington Department of Health
- NWESD 189 Nurse Corps Tips
- Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction Bulletin
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
- City of Anacortes Advisory Information