The following update was sent to the HCPSS community by Superintendent Michael Martirano on February 27, 2020:
The 2019 Novel Coronavirus, or COVID-19, the respiratory virus first identified in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China, continues to be of concern for Howard County residents as well as all Americans and people around the world. HCPSS staff have been diligent in efforts to remain fully aware of new information as it becomes available. On issues of community health, we take our guidance from the experts at the Howard County Health Department, Maryland Department of Health, and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
I have heard from many of you, asking what HCPSS is doing in response to the Coronavirus. It’s a fair question and I hope this email will provide helpful information and guidance. The purpose of this email is not to create concern but to provide information and create awareness.
The short answer is, at this point, we continue to operate and educate as normal. To date, there have been no confirmed cases of Coronavirus in Maryland or in Howard County. We have a team of staff members who remain in constant contact with county, state and federal health professionals to ensure that we have the most updated information possible. We will continue to follow their guidance and share information with you by posting updates to the HCPSS website, and sending emails.
At this point, the best solution for combating this virus is a good defense. Yesterday, Howard County Health Department officials shared with me several recommendations to ensure that we are taking appropriate and effective actions to stay healthy and prevent the spread of all person-to-person viruses. These precautions also have been shared by the CDC, and include:
- Washing your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer
- Avoiding touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands
- Avoiding close contact with people who are sick
- Staying home when you are sick
- Covering your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash
- Cleaning and disinfecting frequently-touched objects and surfaces
HCHD also shared that, in general, a mask worn by healthy individuals will not protect them from contracting the Coronavirus. However, masks may be helpful to prevent the spread of germs from individuals who are sick. Our school nurses have established protocols for students who come to the health room with a fever, including providing them with a mask before they are picked up by a parent or guardian if they are showing flu-like symptoms and/or there is reason to believe that they could have come in contact with somebody who may have contracted the Coronavirus.
According to the HCHD, at this point the only way to initially distinguish between Coronavirus and the flu is the patient’s travel history or known contact with somebody who is infected because symptoms are identical. That is why it is important that families review the strategies listed above to stay healthy and prevent the spread of germs. Students are permitted to bring alcohol-based hand sanitizer to school. Additionally, hand sanitizer is available in every school’s cafeteria for student use.
Questions have been raised related to the decision by several school districts around the country to prohibit international field trips. Existing Board of Education policy already prohibits students from taking field trips internationally.
I want to thank you for helping us ensure that our schools remain healthy environments. Please visit the HCPSS website for more information. We will continue to update the website with new information as it becomes available.