As many of you are aware, numerous regions around the world are experiencing an expanding outbreak of respiratory illness caused by the novel coronavirus, known as COVID-19. The number of cases detected in the United States and many other countries continues to grow; in fact, the virus has now been identified in Washington State.
It’s important for you to know that whenever we encounter situations or conditions that put student health at risk, district administrators work closely with Spokane’s regional health authorities, the Washington State Dept. of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). As it pertains to the expanding outbreak of COVID-19, please take a moment to read the following from the CDC:
Outbreaks of novel virus infections among people are always of public health concern. The level of risk from these outbreaks depends on characteristics of the virus, including how well it spreads between people, the severity of resulting illness, and the medical or other measures available to control the impact of the virus (for example, vaccine or treatment medications). The fact that this disease has caused illness, including illness resulting in death, and sustained person-to-person spread is concerning.
While there is still much to learn about recent diagnoses in California, Oregon and Washington, preliminary information raises the level of concern about the immediate threat for COVID-19 for certain communities in the United States. The potential public health threat posed by COVID-19 is real and significant.
At this time, however, most people in the United States will have little immediate risk of exposure to this virus. This virus is NOT currently spreading widely in the United States. This is a rapidly evolving situation and the CDC will provide updated risk assessments as needed.
Current risk assessment:
- For the general American public, who are unlikely to be exposed to this virus at this time, the immediate health risk from COVID-19 is considered low.
- People in communities where ongoing community spread with the virus that causes COVID-19 has been reported are at elevated though still relatively low risk of exposure.
- Healthcare workers caring for patients with COVID-19 are at elevated risk of exposure.
- Close contacts of persons with COVID-19 are also at elevated risk of exposure.
Again, at the present time, all communication we’ve received is that the immediate risk to the general public in Washington and the United States is considered to be low. You are still far more likely to contract influenza than the COVID-19 coronavirus. However, this is an emergent and rapidly evolving situation; in the coming days and weeks, schools, businesses, and entire communities may be affected. District administrators are closely monitoring the situation and will continue to do so going forward.
An excellent source of factual information is the Washington State Department of Health (DoH) – https://www.doh.wa.gov/. At the Dept. of Health website, you can find a novel coronavirus fact sheet available in 11 languages along with a page with specific guidance for schools. The site also includes workplace recommendations and links to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) resources and information. Both the WA State DoH and CDC websites are updated regularly.
Washington has established a robust incident management structure, led by the Washington State Department of Health. Any decisions to control the spread of COVID-19 in Washington through “social distancing” measures such as canceling public gatherings (closing businesses, schools, or childcare programs, etc.) will likely come through this decision-making structure. District administrators are working with Spokane Regional Health and Washington’s Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) as we prepare for various scenarios related to the increased spread of COVID-19.
As new, accurate and factual sources of information become available we will post those on our webpage and work hard to communicate with you in numerous ways. As stated earlier, we will continue monitoring the situation and will remain in close communication with health officials and with families. Sharing accurate information during a time of heightened concern is one of the best things we can do to prevent unnecessary panic and keep rumors and misinformation from spreading.
Travis W. Hanson