SPARTANBURG, SC -- Sunday afternoon, the Department of Health and Environmental Services released news of a presumptive positive case of Coronavirus (COVID-19) in Spartanburg County. All seven Spartanburg County school districts have been closely monitoring and planning for the potential arrival of the Coronavirus in our community, and we wish to share important information about our response as well as ask for your partnership in helping prevent the spread of this and other illnesses.
While this is an evolving situation, let me assure you that our districts have been preparing. We are following guidance from the Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC), the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), local response planners and agencies, and the South Carolina Department of Education (SCDOE). In addition to maintaining close communication with these organizations, all seven districts are working in tandem and communicating on an ongoing basis to ensure the safety of our students and community.
An outline of the steps we are taking now, our response if the local outbreak increases, and important steps we are asking our employees and families to take now are listed below.
Each district will provide timely updates, recommendations and next steps if a case of Coronavirus should be confirmed by DHEC among its students, staff or families.
At present, upcoming field trips and activities are continuing with the exception of offsite learning activities scheduled to take place in medical facilities and nursing homes, which have been temporarily discontinued as a precautionary measure.
We are following this guidance provided by the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control, which was released yesterday in conjunction with news of the possible cases of Coronavirus in South Carolina including Spartanburg:
“In line with CDC guidance, [DHEC] does not recommend closing schools or canceling public events at this time. DHEC will monitor absentee rates in schools and businesses as well as reports of illness in the community to determine if or when closures may be recommended. DHEC also is providing updated recommendations to schools and day care facilities, colleges and universities, and organizers of large events. That updated information is publicly available at scdhec.gov/COVID19. DHEC continues to be in communication with state agencies and community partners.”
All students and staff who are experiencing illness – particularly fever, cough or shortness of breath – are asked to remain at home until their symptoms have cleared. This is not the time to power through; it is the time to act calmly with caution and flexibility for the good of our community. DHEC has advised that MUSC Health is providing free telehealth screening to all South Carolinians. Anyone experiencing symptoms can visit MUSC.care and use the promo code COVID19 and be screened without having to leave your home. The CDC has also provided several fact sheets on COVID-19 in English, Spanish and Chinese.
Families within each district should follow their home district’s website and communications for updates and information as there are more developments to share. Our school districts appreciate the partnership of our families at this important time as we work together to keep our community healthy and safe.
SPARTANBURG COUNTY SCHOOL DISTRICTS CORONAVIRUS (COVID-19) MONITORING AND RESPONSE
What is COVID-19?
COVID-19 is a respiratory illness caused by a new strain of the Coronavirus. The World Health Organization has named it "Coronavirus Disease 2019" (COVID-19). Symptoms may range from mild to severe and are similar to a cold or influenza. They include fever, cough, and shortness of breath.
The best way to keep people healthy is by stopping the spread of the virus through everyday practices like hand washing and staying home when sick.
Who is at risk?
Of the current known cases, children appear to be the least at risk. Those most at risk are the elderly, immuno-compromised, or adults with certain pre-existing conditions. More information on COVID-19, such as prevention, treatment, and how it is spread, is available on the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) website.
How are Spartanburg County School Districts preparing for COVID-19?
All seven district are closely monitoring and following guidance from the Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC), the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), local response planners and agencies, and the South Carolina Department of Education (SCDOE). In addition to maintaining close communication with these organizations, we are working in tandem and close communication with one another. Our primary focus is to keep our students and our community safe while providing continuity of service to students.
All districts will provide updates to our communities as new information becomes available or as there are developments to the Coronavirus’ impact within our schools.
Specific steps being taken include:
• Reviewing our emergency response plans with key personnel across schools and departments
• Monitoring field trip destinations to ensure students are not traveling to or through cities experiencing an outbreak (as defined by the CDC)
• Monitoring the enrollment of new students and responding accordingly
• Reminding students and staff to limit physical contact, follow appropriate respiratory etiquette, and to regularly and thoroughly wash hands
• Reminding parents and employees that students or staff who have symptoms of a respiratory illness should not come to school or work
• Requesting that students who have a household member who has been recommended for home isolation not return to school until the isolation period has ended in their household
• Monitoring absenteeism and notifying local health officials about large increases in student or staff absences
• Strengthening procedures to isolate and send home students and staff who are sick at school as soon as symptoms present
• Enhancing existing cleaning and disinfecting processes and frequency
How will Spartanburg County School Districts respond in the event of a local outbreak?
We will follow all available guidance provided by DHEC, the CDC and the SCDOE in addition to determining specific responses that may be appropriate and in the best interest of our students and staff. Such responses could include:
• Increased communication with families
• Coordinated student handwashing and enhanced screening of people with respiratory symptoms or potential exposure within our schools
• Further increasing the frequency and methods of cleaning hard surfaces such as doorknobs and desks
• Postponement or cancellation of extra-curricular events and after-school activities
• Closure of one or more schools with implementation of remote learning procedures and/or other methods of academic instruction at home
Should a case of Coronavirus be confirmed by DHEC among a district’s students, staff or families, that district will immediately notify all employees and parents and provide recommendations and next steps. If the closure of one or more schools should become necessary, our districts are prepared to implement approaches that allow learning to continue in an academically appropriate manner. Maintaining our students’ educational experience will be a priority, particularly as this positive focus would provide important stress-relieving benefits during a time when students may feel anxious.
What can families do now to help prevent the spread of Coronavirus?
The partnership of our families is a critical component of our school districts’ preparation and response to the potential spreading of Coronavirus. Families are advised to remain informed and closely follow guidance from the CDC.
The most important role families can play at home is to ensure all members of their household follow these everyday precautions. A brief summary of these includes:
• Stop germs by washing your hands frequently and thoroughly. Keeping your hands clean is one of the most important things you can do to stop the spread of germs and stay healthy.
• Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
• Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
• Stay home when you are sick.
• Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
• Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
If a member of a students’ household has traveled in an area of outbreak, has come into contact with someone who has been diagnosed with Coronavirus, or is diagnosed themselves with Coronavirus, families are urged to report this information to their child’s school immediately.
All students and staff who are experiencing illness – particularly fever, cough or shortness of breath – are asked to remain at home until their symptoms have cleared.