Alabama education officials are developing policies to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
During a press conference Tuesday afternoon, State Superintendent Eric Mackey outlined planned protocols for schools should a student or faculty member be diagnosed.
“We would close that school for 24 to 48 hours and then assess the situation,” Mackey said.
From there, the Public Health Department would do an assessment to find out about the person who has tested positive, including who their family members are and who they have interacted with, where the individual has traveled and if they work or attend more than one school.
“During that 24 to 48 hours we would assess those things, we’d make a decision about whether that school needed to be close for a longer period or not. If it were an itinerant teacher, then we might make a decision to close a cluster of school. Those decisions would be made in conjunction with the Alabama Department of Public Health. Decisions like that should not be made in isolation,” Mackey said.
Alabama Superintendent of Education Eric Mackey, flanked by Jennifer Ventress, Lead Nurse for the Alabama Department of Education, left, and Director of the Alabama Emergency Management Agency Brian Hastings as they give an update on safety precautions and preparation for a possible COVID-19 outbreak in Alabama during a press conference in Montgomery, Ala., on Tuesday March 10, 2020. (Photo: Mickey Welsh / Advertiser)
Mackey asked parents to use common sense should children develop symptoms of a sickness following travel. If a student begins running a fever at school, the child will be sent home, Mackey said.
“They should stay home until they are fever-free for 72 hours without medication,” he said.
However, Mackey asked parents to remain informed to reduce potential panic.
“What we don’t need is parents spreading fear unnecessarily. If children are not running a fever, send them to school,” he said.
“The mortality rate among children is extremely low, almost zero. Schools have stepped up their cleaning, teachers are doing a lot more to remind children to wash their hands, cover sneezes and coughs. Every year we’re dealing with the flu and constantly reminding students to take care of themselves. It’s the age old prevention methods, tried and true, that are going to work in this situation.”
Mackey said his office has advised all superintendents to cancel any school-sponsored overseas travel and cautioned against any travel during spring break to “hotspots” in the U.S.
“With a rash of confinements and quarantines overseas, it’s not a good situation to allow our students to travel overseas,” he said. “We’re not restricting any U.S. travel, but that is subject to change. Two weeks ago we didn’t have any restrictions on international travel, but as more countries are starting to quarantine their own citizens as well as international travelers, we decided not to put our students in that risk.”
About 90% of Alabama’s school districts will be on spring break the week of March 22, but at least one school will be out of school each week this month, Mackey said.
Montgomery Public Schools start spring break Monday.
Check below to see what precautions schools have taken, including higher education institutions. This story will be updated as information is received.
Montgomery Public Schools
“Our custodial staff are actively taking steps to ensure that school environments are cleaned thoroughly each day. Each school is working to ensure that tissues, hand sanitizer and wipes are available for classrooms in addition to overall cleaning activity,” a release posted to the district’s website states.
The school is asking all parents to talk with their children about steps to take throughout the school day to prevent the spread of germs.
Additionally, the district is ordering students and staff not attend school who have returned from China or areas with active community transmission of Coronavirus for 14 days.
They “must self-monitor symptoms for 14 days after leaving the affected area. Students and staff must contact ADPH Infectious Diseases & Outbreaks Division at 1-800-338-8374 immediately upon return to Alabama. These students and staff must be excluded from school for the duration of this monitoring period. They are asked to remain home and to avoid congregate group settings such as church, concerts, buses, etc.,” the release states.
Alabama State University
As of March 6, the university has banned international travel and required approval for domestic travel for student, faculty and staff.
Campus precautions listed on the school’s website dedicated to the virus includes the temporary ban of personal reusable cups in the dining facilities. Additionally, the university released the following requests of students, faculty and staff:
- Please reinforce to students to wash their hands many times each day while on campus and when they return home; sneeze or cough into their elbows; do not shake hands or use fist bumps, and do not share cups or water bottles.
- Please do not attend classes or come to work if you are ill. We ask you to follow the 24-hour rule. Please do not attend classes or work less than 24 hours after being recovered and unmedicated from a fever, vomiting, etc.
- If you are traveling during Spring Break, please carefully check the CDC Travelers website to ensure a safe experience.
- Alert the ASU administration if anyone in your immediate family will be traveling out of the country, is symptomatic, diagnosed with an illness, or quarantined.
Updates from ASU can be found online at alasu.edu/coronavirus.
Auburn University announced March 2 that it was recalling all of its travel abroad students and suspending all official international travel for students, faculty and staff until further notice.
The university had already suspended all travel by students, faculty and staff to China, Italy, Iran and South Korea.
Spring break began Monday, March 9 and Auburn officials urged caution for those traveling.
“Students, faculty and staff should be aware of the potential implications of international travel,” Fred Kam, medical director for the university’s Medical Clinic, said in a news release. “We strongly discourage personal travel to any country classified by the CDC as a level 3 risk for COVID-19. Beyond that, we urge everyone to seriously consider the possibility of quarantines or restricted travel back to the United States for any trips outside the country.”
On March 4, Huntingdon announced it had banned international travel of students, faculty and staff.
Huntingdon also amended its attendance policy for student-athletes, which previously limited student-athletes to missing not more than 25% of class meetings, regardless of reason. Huntingdon removed absences related to “documented respiratory illness” from the policy to encourage infected students to self-isolate properly.
The Office of Student Affairs has a policy in place to provide care for students who are ill and who are not able to go home. To learn more about the policy, contact Dean Fran Taylor at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Troy established a task force charged with creating safeguards for the university’s campuses.
Troy suspended all international travel for students and faculty and recalled students already overseas on long-term study abroad.
Spring break for the university started March 9 and students were urged prior to take precautions if traveling.
Students were urged, “to carefully evaluate their travel plans and avoid areas with active transmission of the virus. Students were asked to follow all Centers for Disease Control guidance for personal health protection, including washing hands regularly and avoiding close contact with sick people,” a release from the university stated.
Contact Montgomery Advertiser reporter Krista Johnson at
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