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School district to elaborate on COVID-19 response plan at Monday’s meeting

By James Grob,

Charles City Superintendent of Schools Mike Fisher will lead discussion on the district’s response plan for COVID-19 at Monday’s scheduled meeting of the Charles City Board of Education.

The meeting is scheduled to start at 6:15 p.m. at the Charles City High School commons area.

The Charles City School District is currently on spring break, with classes scheduled to resume on Monday. An outline of the plan is among the agenda exhibits available to the public on the school district’s website, and is entitled “COVID-19 Coronavirus Action Plan.”

“It is important to prepare for the potential of COVID-19 in the same way we prepare for other health events (such as the flu) that could disrupt normal routines,” the document says. “The immediate health risk from COVID-19 is low; however, the potential of the public health threat is high, according to the Iowa Department of Public Health.”

The response plan includes no cancellations or rescheduling of classes, school events or activities at this point. It instead encourages students and staff to take preventative actions to stop the spread of germs; intends to educate students, parents and staff on what to do if someone gets sick; and vows to keep lines of communication open with COVID-19 updates.

Several school districts throughout the state have announced similar response plans.

Iowa’s three public universities announced Wednesday they would shift to only online classes beginning March 23 in an effort to keep students and faculty safe from the novel coronavirus. Some private colleges are making similar moves.

The University of Iowa, Iowa State University and the University of Northern Iowa advised students to not return to campus after spring break if they didn’t have to, and to take their courses online. The online courses would continue for at least two weeks, with officials reassessing the situation during the week of March 30.

All of the universities will allow students to return to on-campus residence halls and note that dining services will remain open.

In a press release on Tuesday, Comprehensive Systems Inc. announced it is asking visitors who are displaying respiratory symptoms such as a cough, or a fever, to postpone their visit until further notice.

Symptoms of COVID-19 include fever, coughing and shortness of breath.

The group also said it was placing on hold all unnecessary community outings from residential and day programs, although health care professionals visiting to care for individuals will continue as normal.

In the plan outline, the Charles City School District states that it intends to follow the situation through close communication with state and local health officials and update its emergency plan so it is in place before a local outbreak occurs.

The district said it would teach “students, parents and staff the importance of staying home when sick until at least 24 hours after they no longer have a fever or signs of a fever,” and “review school policies and consider revising those that make it difficult for students and staff to stay home when sick or when caring for others who are sick.”

The district also states in the outline that it will encourage respiratory etiquette and proper hand hygiene and encourage routine surface cleaning.

Specifically, the district will teach students and staff to cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue or their bent arm, provide adequate supplies within reach, teach students to wash hands often with soap and water for 20 seconds and dry them with a paper towel, and use the paper towel to turn the faucet off. The district will also encourage students to keep their hands away from their eyes, nose and mouth.

Students who are demonstrating flu-like symptoms will be separated from the general student population and held in the building’s nurse’s office until they can be picked up by parents. Students may be asked to wear a face mask until they can be picked up. Once a student leaves to go home, the area the student was in contact with will be cleaned and sanitized.

The school district will use its regular communication streams to keep the community updated on the current status, and consult with the Iowa Department of Public Health and Floyd County Public Health on any further precautions deemed necessary.

COVID-19 was first linked to an outbreak in Wuhan, China, in December 2019, but cases have subsequently been identified in more than 100 countries including the U.S., Canada and Mexico, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

For most people, the virus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, which can be fatal.

The vast majority of people recover from the virus. According to the World Health Organization, people with mild cases recover in about two weeks, while those with more severe cases may take three to six weeks to get better.

On Monday, Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds signed a Proclamation of Disaster Emergency, activating the disaster response and recovery aspects of the Iowa Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management’s Iowa Emergency Response Plan.

The proclamation authorizes state agencies to utilize resources including personnel, equipment and facilities to perform activities necessary to prevent, contain and mitigate the effects of the novel coronavirus.

The first presumptive positive cases in Iowa were identified on March 8.

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