SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX 5) — County and state health officials in California are scrambling to develop specific coronavirus response plans in the event the expanding outbreak hits school and university campuses statewide.
In the absence of specific guidelines and guidance from health officials, The Healdsburg School, a private K-8 institution in Sonoma County closed its doors after an adult connected to the school had close contact with a patient diagnosed with the virus.
“We are choosing to close school for today as we are waiting for an official response from public health. We want to be sure we are following the recommended protocols to ensure the wellness of our community,” Tanya Bruno, Director of Operations for the school wrote to parents.
Sonoma County Health Officer Dr. Celeste Philip said the school is doing an entire environmental cleaning before opening Tuesday.
The closure highlights the challenges for schools posed by the rapidly expanding public health crisis. Jennie Snyder, Sonoma County Office of Education deputy superintendent, said she doesn’t know The Healdsburg School’s specific protocols as it is not among the county’s school districts.
All other schools in the county remained open, Snyder said.
A spokesperson for the San Jose Unified School District says they believe it would be premature to close schools with no known cases or exposure to the virus among their school community. The district sent parents a letter urging them to keep sick children at home and emphasizing the importance of handwashing and disinfecting surfaces.
Melinda Landua, the Health and Family Services Manager for the school system, says school nurses monitor any spike in absences or illnesses in a classroom. Landua says she sends specially-trained janitorial teams to clean those classrooms.
“Our nurses are monitoring. And then they’ll send me the list and I’ll employ disinfecting crews to the site based on the need,” Landua said.
Landua says the school system will follow the lead of the county health department if a student, staff member or parent were to test positive for the disease. A spokesperson for the health department, however, said they were still in the process of developing quarantine protocols for schools.
“I guess you’d have to quarantine the classroom and then go from there. I mean it would be hard to quarantine a whole school,” said parent Alfred Valdez.
In the meantime, parents and school leaders hope the precautions they taking now will prevent the spread of the disease later.
“We tell our daughter to continually wash her hands. We’ve been sending her with hand sanitizer in her backpack. We’re just trying to be as prepared as we can,” said parent Mike Diaz.
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