With the novel Coronavirus, also known as COVID-19, now spreading throughout areas of the United States, school districts across the Twin Cities took time to inform concerned parents about the health crisis that is being felt worldwide.
Though there have been no confirmed cases in Minnesota, the Minnesota Department of Health has investigated more than a dozen patients, and has ordered a self-quarantine recently for two travelers that were exposed to the virus in Europe.
Schools, at this time, are deferring to MDH and the Minnesota Department of Education, which have conjointly coordinated efforts against past pandemics, including the so-called Swine Flu (H1N1) and SARS outbreaks earlier this century.
Here’s the letter sent to parents by Dr. Ann-Marie Foucault, addressing the novel Coronavirus:
Recently there has been lots of media coverage about COVID-19 (novel coronavirus). As a district, our hearts go out to those who have been affected by this contagious condition. While this originated thousands of miles away, it causes us to pause and examine our own vulnerabilities. I want to provide you with information about our processes and procedures regarding health issues such as this.
The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) and Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) collaboratively take the lead on decisions regarding school closures or other impacts on schools that could result from outbreaks of contagious conditions. They monitor local and national health concerns and work with the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Likewise, Wright County Public Health monitors health situations and provides guidance to school districts and others.
I want to reassure you that STMA Schools are in the prevention stage of managing an outbreak of COVID-19. While we have processes and procedures already in place, I have formed a task force to proactively prepare in the event that a districtwide response is needed. I, along with key district leaders, are closely collaborating with MDH, MDE, CDC, Wright County Public Health, and others.
It bears repeating that the most significant things you can do to protect yourself, your family, and others from contagious conditions are the same preventative practices that we promote every year during cold and flu season:
- Wash your hands
- Cover a cough
- Don’t share personal items
- Keep your child home from school or activities when s/he is sick
- Stay home when you are sick
Be assured that we will follow any recommendations from MDE and/or MDH regarding COVID-19 or any other contagious condition. You would receive communication from the district via the same channels we use when weather causes school or program closures — email, text, phone, social media, and website.
It is important that you and your family also plan how you would manage childcare, work, and activities should schools or workplaces need to close. This report from NPR offers some good ideas and perspectives on how you might plan for your family. Also, for your information, this brief presentation by the World Health Organization provides background on COVID-19. In addition, there is valuable information on the CDC website, the MN Department of Health website , and the Wright County Public website.
I want to reassure you that the safety of students and staff is my highest priority. The district has plans in place and will continue to closely monitor the situation. I will provide an update if I anticipate an impact on students, staff, or schools.
Thank you for your continued support and for partnering with us to maintain the health and safety of our students and staff.
Dr. Ann-Marie Foucault