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DeKalb County schools update on plans to respond to coronavirus

DeKalb County school officials are relying on accurate information and medical professionals as they watch the spread of coronavirus.

Lisa Gonzalez, public health administrator for DeKalb County, said it’s important for area residents to get their information from actual sources and getting it from elsewhere is not a good idea.

“Disinformation is absolutely a concern,” Gonzalez said. “We’re pushing people to our website, which has links to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Illinois Department of Public Health.”

Gonzalez said in early February her department sent out a memo to school nurses throughout DeKalb County that included the guidance for schools from the CDC about Coronavirus. She said on Feb. 27, the department sent information to school superintendents and the DeKalb County Regional Office of Education about the virus.

“It focused mostly on promoting general prevention,” Gonzalez said. “And trying to begin assessing school plans for containment as it relates to coronavirus and the spread of coronavirus.”

Gonzalez said the department is trying to assess each school district to determine their plan and see what their threshold, as far as absenteeism, would be.

“Say they had greater than average flu activity, they may decide because of a certain number of students [who are] out, they may choose to close,” Gonzalez said. She said it could be based on the number of absent students or it could be based on the percentage of absent students.

Sycamore School District 427 superintendent Kathy Countryman said Friday while she’s not personally worried about the virus, she thinks it’s important that everyone keeps well-informed and uses reliable sources.

Countryman said the district’s website has links to the state and county health department websites.

“We try to give parents as much access to information they need,” Countryman said.

So far, no concerned parents have called her office, Countryman said.

She said the district can message parents through text messaging, social media, email and phone calls.

“If we were to have something parents need to know about in terms of an emergency, we’re super lucky that we have all those in place,” Countryman said.

Brent O’Daniell, superintendent at Genoa-Kingston School District, said he sent an email to parents in his district to let them know about information and advice the district has received from county health department. There is a link on the district’s website too.

“The United States has experienced 53 current confirmed cases of Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) as of February 25, 2020…” the email states. “This new virus poses a serious public health threat, but the immediate health risk from the virus to the general American public is still considered low at this time.”

The email also gives information on the origin of the virus, symptoms, when the illness can begin and how it can spread. It also contains the “common sense actions,” students, parents and school personnel can take, such as washing one’s hands, to protect themselves from any respiratory virus, like coronavirus.

Health officials are also not recommending people buy the N95 respiratory mask, a fast-selling mask designed to achieve a close facial fit and efficient filtration of the airborne particles that can spread diseases such as coronaviruses and influenza.

Joe King, a Northern Illinois University spokesperson, said in an email Friday that NIU has an existing plan for responding to a pandemic that is intended to protect its students, faculty and staff to the greatest extent possible should there be an outbreak of a serious infectious disease.

“We are currently reviewing the plan to ensure that it covers all eventualities that could result from a Coronavirus outbreak,” King said. “Ultimately, decisions on how we react – quarantine, evacuation, etc. – would be directed by the county, state and federal health authorities.”

Source: The Daily Chronicle

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