To the ASW Community…
I’m writing to update you on the status of our response to the Coronavirus as new details become available. The information below is gleaned from multiple sources, but all checked against current science and official positions on the issue. It is clear we also have a significant amount of misinformation that is being shared through media and individuals that increases the complexity of our decisions. Despite news reports from China of more drastic restrictions, we are still taking a measured approach to the situation, grounded in current and validated facts.
According to our risk plan for infection, we are currently at Level 1 and will remain at this level based on current advice. We would only move to the next level after reviewing additional information and based on US Embassy or other competent recommendations. There are 4 levels to the plan that include board involvement on any decisions that would include the closure of school.
Level 1 includes the following actions:
- A student must be kept at home if symptoms occur. This is consistent with normal school policy but will be further reinforced in the coming days. As per our health manual (excerpt), parents must “keep a child home from school when he/she has any of the following symptoms: Signs of severe illness including fever of 38C (100.4F), difficulty breathing, a severe runny nose, sneezing, frequent and/or hard coughing…”
- Students who have been diagnosed with a Communicable disease “must inform the Nurse’s Office of the diagnosis. When returning to school, the student must submit a doctor’s note stating that he/she is no longer contagious and is fit to return to school before going to class.”
- Encourage hygiene including handwashing (all levels)
- Extra cleaning around the school and increased disinfection
- Normal activities program and normally scheduled events
- Field trips as normal, but potentially restricted if any risk in Poland or at the location of the visit:
- This weekend we are hosting MATHCOUNTS and sending basketball teams to Zurich and Vienna
- Next weekend, we have trips going to Basel and Athens
We will use email, establish a notification on our website, and use our SMS system if the situation suggests an increase to the next level, which would include the following additional steps:
- Restrict campus access to only staff, parents, and students – all visitor access suspended
- Parents requested to disclose travel to infected areas
- School activities as normal
- School travel suspended
- Evening and special events – school staff, parent, and students only
- Posters and information on buses regarding health restrictions – don’t get on the bus if sick!
- Increased school cleaning and 3-day cycle on additional cleaning support and activity
- All students who have traveled in last 10 days monitored.
To be clear we are not at the next level yet and we would only go to this level when cases are identified in Poland, a pandemic is declared by either WHO or the CDC, and broader travel restrictions are implemented. This is NOT the case at this time.
We have a much more detailed document from the Embassy with questions and answers to the most frequent requests for information. It is attached “HERE”.
One of the issues that we are facing is two families are returning from China in the coming days. I’ve been in touch with both families and they have confirmed they have not traveled to the Wuhan area and have been only with close family members during the New Year. The following is an excerpt from the longer Q&A advisory linked above:
Q: Should we be limiting contact with staff or family members who are returning from China? Is it okay to have them in offices, classrooms, training, etc?
A: At this point, neither the WHO nor the CDC has recommended any preclusions for people coming from China. Currently, the CDC in the United States is screening all arrivals from China and doing more in-depth screening of arrivals who have been specifically in Wuhan. From what has been seen to date there is no indication that travelers from China should be limited in their interactions at work, school, or recreational activities. Excluding someone “out of an abundance of caution” is not indicated, unfairly stigmatizes people without evidence that it protects anyone and should NOT be done.US Embassy Med Unit, January, 2020
As you can see, there is no support for excluding these families at this time and we have contacted them to confirm that they have not been exposed nor have traveled to the current region of focus, the Wuhan area, and are not exhibiting any symptoms. Therefore, messages to these families suggesting that they should remain out of school are highly inappropriate.
We have heard many other rumors and hysteria driven claims in the media. We must be cautious about believing everything we read and see on TV and through the internet. As we teach your children, we should be thoughtful consumers of information seeking the best and most accurate sources. As a school, we focus on reliable and confirmed sources of information for our decisions and will continue to resist calls for action that is based on fear and false information.
- While it is early, this is not a serious illness based on the number of cases and the symptoms reported. The deaths are a limited number and mostly older adults with other health concerns.
- As a comparison, the CDC estimates that the flu has hit as many as 21 million people since October 1, 2019 (start of the flu season) and has caused between 9000 and 20000 deaths so far, as it does each year.
- The Polish government released advice this afternoon that affirms a prudent approach of just better handwashing and also sought to push back on erroneous claims of the spread of the virus via postal mail.
Please allow us to be cautious, but also prudent. Do not take matters into your own hands and directly contact other families you believe are of concern. Make decisions relative to your own child and family as you see appropriate. But, most importantly, please know that the school is making decisions based on changing conditions and using the best official advice available.