Information for School Districts Regarding 2019 Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19)
Health officials are currently taking steps to prevent the introduction and spread of COVID-19 (“Coronavirus”) into communities across the United States. School districts can play an important role in this effort.
Through collaboration and coordination with the Idaho Department of Health & Welfare, local public health agencies, the Idaho Department of Education (SDE), other education officials, and elected officials, districts can disseminate critical information about the disease and its potential transmission to students, families, staff, and community. Districts can also prepare to take additional steps to prevent the spread of COVID-19, should State and local health officials identify such a need.
This is an emerging, rapidly evolving situation and this document will be updated as new information becomes available.
What is 2019 Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19)?
2019 Novel Coronavirus, or COVID-19, is a respiratory disease caused by a novel (new) coronavirus that was first detected in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China and which has now been detected in many locations internationally, including cases in the United States.
People who get sick with COVID-19 develop mild to severe respiratory illness with symptoms including fever, cough, and shortness of breath. Illness can begin 2 to 14 days after an exposure. Although this virus likely emerged from an animal source, it can also spread from person-to-person. Spread from one person to another is thought to occur mainly via respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. Typically, as with most respiratory viruses, people are thought to be most contagious when they are most symptomatic.
The latest national situation summary updates, including the number of cases identified in the United States, are available on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) website: Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19). State situation updates can be found on the Idaho’s Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) website: Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) in Idaho.
What is the health risk from COVID-19 in Idaho?
Under current circumstances, certain people will have an increased risk of infection:
- People who have traveled to areas where widespread community transmission is occurring.
- People who had direct close contact with someone who was confirmed to have COVID-19.
- Like any other virus, no identity, community, ethnic, or racial group in Idaho is more at risk for getting or spreading COVID-19.
Not all coronaviruses are COVID-19. There are many other kinds of common coronaviruses currently circulating in the U.S. that cause respiratory illness. There are also many other kinds of respiratory illnesses (such as colds and flu) circulating right now.
What are the latest public health measures?
The public health response is multi-layered, with the goal of detecting and minimizing introductions of this virus in the U.S. so as to reduce the spread and the impact of this virus.
The U.S. government has taken unprecedented steps with respect to travel in response to the growing public health threat posed by this new coronavirus and the CDC has issued travel guidance related to COVID-19. The CDC is working closely with state health departments, including each local health department, and is issuing clinical guidance. The State of Idaho is providing information about the outbreak and how to report suspect cases to local health departments and health care providers in Idaho and coordinating with local public health agencies to determine the need for monitoring, quarantine, or other restriction of movement and activities for travelers.
What precautions can schools and districts in Idaho take to prevent infections with COVID-19 and other respiratory diseases?
To prepare for possible community transmission of COVID-19, the State of Idaho has provided the following information for Idaho school districts:
- Continue to follow the Idaho Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) website.
- For Pre-Pandemic planning, use the Idaho’s Risk Assessment for Flu Pandemic with these additional considerations
- Contact your local public health agency to review and/or develop a pandemic plan
- Antiviral medications are currently not indicated for COVID-19
- Vaccines are not indicated for COVID-19
- Continue implementing the same practices as you would during flu season
- Wash your hands often with soap and water
- Cover coughs and sneezes
- Clean frequently touched surfaces and objects
- Stay home if you are sick
- Avoid close contact with other people (Keep a distance of at least 10 feet)
- Follow the “How Sick is Too Sick” guidelines from Idaho Department of Health and Welfare.
Per interim guidance from the CDC, districts in Idaho can further take steps to help stop or slow the spread of respiratory infectious diseases, including COVID-19, by:
- Reviewing, updating, and implementing emergency operations plans (EOPs). This should be done in collaboration with local public health agency. Focus on the components, or annexes, of the plans that address infectious disease outbreaks.
- Developing information-sharing systems with partners. Information-sharing systems can be used for day-to-day reporting (on information such as changes in absenteeism) and disease surveillance efforts to detect and respond to an outbreak.
- Monitoring and plan for absenteeism. Review and monitor the usual absentee patterns at schools among both students and staff and alert local health officials about large increases in student and staff absenteeism, particularly if absences appear due to respiratory illnesses.
- Creating communications plans for use with the school community. Schools can share relevant CDC fact sheets to help students, families, and staff understand COVID-19 along with steps they can take to protect themselves. Communication plans should also include information about steps schools are taking to prepare and how additional information will be shared.
- Reviewing CDC’s guidance for businesses and employers. Districts may also consider reviewing this CDC guidance to identify any additional strategies schools can use, given their role as an employer.
When should districts in Idaho consider closing schools?
In the event the situation rises to the level of an emergency which threatens the safety, health or welfare of students or staff members, the superintendent is empowered to close the schools or to dismiss them early. It is understood that the superintendent will take such action only after consultation with appropriate authorities.
For more information, please visit:
- CDC: Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)
- CDC: Interim Guidance for Administrators of US Childcare Programs and K-12 Schools to Plan, Prepare, and Respond to Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)
- IDH&W: Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) in Idaho
- NSBA: Responding to the Coronavirus
- U.S. Department of Education: COVID-19 (“Coronavirus”) Information and Resources for Schools and School Personnel
- U.S. Department of Education: Protecting Students’ Civil Rights During COVID-19 Response
For examples of district communications regarding COVID-19, please refer to:
Cleaning and Disinfecting Procedures
Special processes beyond routine cleaning are not necessary nor recommended to slow the spread of respiratory illness. Schools should follow standard procedures for routine cleaning and disinfecting with an EPA‐registered product. Typically, this means daily sanitizing surfaces and objects that are touched often, such as bathrooms, water coolers, desks, countertops, doorknobs, computer keyboards, hands‐on learning items, faucet handles, phones, and toys.
As a reminder, entities can secure the necessary EMS, First Aide and Custodial Cleaning products through the BuyBoard Purchasing Cooperative contracts. To see what contracts are available to you, visit www.buyboard.com.