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ACPS Management Plan for COVID-19 Emphasizes Wide Range of Infection Control Measures

DATE: March 9, 2020
CONTACT: Phil Giaramita, Public Affairs and Strategic Communications Officer
PHONE: 434-972-4049

Albemarle County Public Schools Management Plan for COVID-19 Emphasizes Wide Range of Infection Control Measures

(ALBEMARLE COUNTY, Virginia) – Albemarle County Public Schools said today their near-term management plan for Coronavirus Disease 2019, or COVID-19, focuses on increased attention to personal infection control measures and ensuring that all buildings and facilities have adequate supplies of EPA-approved antimicrobial surface disinfectants.

The plan consists of three phases of increasingly more stringent measures to prevent and contain the spread of coronavirus infections. The first and current phase emphasizes planning and preparation, but also requires several preventive measures to help control the spread of any respiratory viruses. Phase Two would apply when COVID-19 cases are identified in the region or as directed by the health department, and Phase Three would be activated when the local health department declares there are cases of concern in the local area.

“Three key elements for the success of our management plan will be broad school community awareness, timely and accurate information, and preparation,” said Rosalyn Schmitt, the school division’s Chief Operating Officer.

“We are working on a constant basis with our local health department partners to ensure we have the most comprehensive and up-to-date information and guidance on how to keep our students and staff safe and on how best to anticipate and prepare for future eventualities,” Schmitt said.

She noted that, beginning today, members of the public with questions or concerns about COVID-19 can call a newly-established health department hotline at 434-972-6261. The hotline, operated by the Thomas Jefferson Health District, currently is accepting calls Monday through Friday, from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

At the present time, the division is reinforcing personal infection control practices such as frequently washing hands; covering coughs and sneezes; avoiding hand contact with face, eyes and mouth; and staying home if ill.

During Phase Two, the plan advises parents to prepare for the possibility of having to secure child care over days or weeks; implements social distancing in schools to increase the physical distance between students; and considers the cancellation of assemblies, field trips, and athletic events if recommended by the health department.

Phase Three protections would exclude non-essential visitors to schools as well as any student, employee or visitor with a fever or other symptom of a respiratory illness. Each school will maintain an isolation area where children exhibiting flu-like symptoms would be housed until they can be transported home. Also in Phase Three, school nurses would no longer administer acetaminophen or ibuprofen to students or staff, since these medications can mask a fever.

Schmitt has convened a working group of school and department officials who are meeting on a regular basis to review and update the COVID-19 management plan and lead its implementation across all schools and offices.

Among the steps the division is taking, Schmitt added, is to increase its inventory of supplies of antimicrobial disinfectants and wipes, hand sanitizers, soap, tissues, and paper towels. The division also is looking into distance learning options in the event students are absent from school for an extended period of time. Administrators are being asked to plan on how they will maintain essential operations in the event of high employee absence rates.

The committee also is considering longer-term concerns in the event schools are closed, such as providing meals to students in the federal government’s free and reduced meals program.

Schmitt said the division will continue to closely monitor state and federal travel advisories and will keep students and families apprised of all developments that may impact school events outside of the local area.

“We expect all staff and families who travel to countries now classified with a Level 3 travel warning by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), which include China, Iran, Italy and South Korea, to follow CDC guidance. That calls for self-isolation, staying at home for 14 days upon returning home, and seeking medical attention in the event of fever, cough, or difficulty breathing,” Schmitt said.

For travel elsewhere, all possible precautions should be taken based on the latest CDC guidance for that country.

“We are taking the threat of this illness to our communities with the utmost urgency. The best strategies, as with any emergency, are planning, preparation, teamwork, and acting upon quality and current information,” Schmitt said. “We are fortunate to have so many outstanding medical professionals in our schools, such a dedicated staff and parent community, and an outstanding partnership with the health department. We will continue to use all of these resources to ensure our learning environments remain safe,” she added.

The school division’s COVID-19 management plan can be accessed online at:
https://www.k12albemarle.org/acps/division/Pages/COVID-19.aspx

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