Editor’s Note: This story has been updated since it first posted.
By Elizabeth F. McNamara
UPDATE 3/1/20: The state Health Department announced Sunday two cases coronavirus (COVID-19) have been diagnosed, an adult and a student from St. Raphael’s Academy. Both had been on the same trip to Italy in mid-February. Everyone who was on that trip is in self-monitored quarantine for 14 days with public health supervision.
Incoming Supt. Alexis Meyer said Friday the school district is following state Department of Health advisories with regard to the coronavirus “COVID-19” and cleaning protocols have been reinforced.
As of Friday (2/28/20), the virus, which started in China in late 2019, had been diagnosed in at least 56 countries and there were 61 known cases in the U.S. There have been no reported cases in Rhode Island, but there has been one confirmed case in Massachusetts.
“At this time, Rhode Island has no confirmed cases of COVID-19 and the risk to our residents remains low. At the same time, the risk for the influenza virus is very high,” said an advisory to school officials from the Dept. of Health.
In general, Meyer said, “It’s very important to follow typical procedures – wash your hands, wash your hands, wash your hands.”
In addition, she said, if you are sick, you should stay home.
Meyer, who is the director of teaching and learning for the district but takes over as superintendent May 1, said this time of year, the cleaning protocol is always intensified because of flu and other illnesses.
“We have a special disinfectant for surfaces and touch points,” she said. Touch points are things like door handles, light switches, computer keyboards and any kind of hand-held remote. (She noted that all cleaning products used by the district must be deemed “allowable” by the health department.)
Meyer said district administrators have started having preliminary talks about she called “the what if’s.”
“We are following the guidance of the Department of Health which is following the guidance of the CDC and the CDC is suggesting that you should always have a ‘what if’ plan in place.”
“I hope it doesn’t come to that,” said Meyer.
Town Manager Andrew Nota said he is working with town staff to prepare for continuing town services (especially fire and police) in case of a widespread outbreak of the virus.
“It has yet to have risen to the point where we should be truly fearful,” he said Friday, but he added, “The time of waiting [to prepare] has passed.”
Here are some resources to stay informed about COVID-19:
RI Dept. of Health’s newly created Covid-19 website: health.ri.gov/covid.
From the Centers for Disease Control: Share the Facts, Stop Fear
And, frequently asked questions and answers: Coronavirus Disease-2019 (COVID-19) and Children
Here are basic things to help everyone stay healthy:
- Wash 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.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
- Stay home when you are sick.
- Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue and throw the tissue in the trash.
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