Health Update 2 – March 5, 2020
With so much information coming at us, we understand that the Novel Coronavirus, now known as COVID-19, is causing much anxiety in our community, country and the world. The Bangor School Department is working to provide you with the most up to date information on this rapidly evolving situation. Following is a brief overview of the current situation. For more information and FAQ’s, we recommend you visit https://www.maine.gov/doe/covid-19.
WHAT IS KNOWN
• The virus causing COVID-19 is a new coronavirus that has not been previously identified and causes a respiratory illness ranging from a mild cold-like illness to severe pneumonia.
• Most (81%) of people diagnosed with COVID-19 in China had mild disease, including most children.
• Similar to influenza, the people who are most likely to have severe disease and complications from COVID-19 are older individuals (>60 years old) and those with other medical conditions like heart and lung disease or diabetes.
• There is no vaccine or treatment currently available for COVID-19 but the National Institutes of Health is evaluating treatments and developing a vaccine already.
• Currently, there is NO confirmed community spread of COVID-19 in Maine, meaning the virus is not being spread from person-to-person. However, experts predict there will eventually be community spread. Our schools are preparing for when/if this happens.
HOW THE VIRUS SPREADS
• COVID-19 is believed to spread primarily the same way the common cold or flu spreads—through respiratory droplets that are produced when someone coughs or sneezes.
• People who are most at risk of becoming infected with COVID-19 are those who have been in close contact (within about 6 feet) with someone who has the disease.
• People are thought to be most contagious when they are most symptomatic (the sickest).
• Some spread of the virus might be possible before a person has symptoms; there have been reports of this with COVID-19, but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads.
WHAT THE SCHOOL DEPARTMENT IS DOING
• The School Department is working with the Director of Public Health, Maine Department of Education, Maine CDC, the Community Health Leadership Board and others to prepare.
• BSD employees are reviewing emergency plans.
• Faculty and staff are reviewing universal precautions and educating students about this virus.
• Faculty and staff are working together to create take home packets in the event schools need to close. (*Note: Not all families have access to high speed internet at home. Therefore, for equity and access for all, hard copy packets would be provided.)
• Faculty and staff are preparing extra sub plans in the event of their own absence.
• Schools are asking parents for reasons for student absences in order to track flu-like symptoms.
• Extra care for cleaning surfaces and bathrooms are in place.
• Buses are being wiped down after each run.
• Area superintendents have decided to limit school sponsored out of state travel.
WHAT YOU CAN DO NOW
• Keep children home when they are sick.
o 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 mouth and nose since that is how germs get into the body.
• Clean frequently touched surfaces and objects (everyday household disinfectants are fine)
o Enhance cleaning of high touch surfaces like door knobs, toilet handles, and sink handles.
• Plan for when community spread occurs.
o 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.
o Make sure to be connected to the school through the InTouch alert system, the Bangor app, and check the school department website resource at: https://www.bangorschools.net/news/2020/02/28/coronavirus-update/
Because most people with COVID-19 have mild disease, the likelihood that we will be closing schools is very low, but not zero. In the highly unlikely chance that a decision to close school due to a COVID-19 outbreak is made, it is important for parents/guardians to have a plan for who could take care of your child(ren).
We are receiving frequent updates as the Maine Department of Education is working directly with Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention to monitor this evolving situation. We will continue to provide new information to the community as things change.
Betsy M. Webb