The immediate risk of the coronavirus in the United States is believed to be low, but Oak Ridge Schools, Anderson County Schools, and the Anderson County Health Department are providing information to help respond to the emerging public health threat.
“Oak Ridge Schools is committed to keeping our students and staff safe and are currently working to determine the appropriate steps to address the potential coronavirus outbreak,” the school system said in a message sent to staff members on Friday afternoon.Â “We are communicating with the Anderson County Health Department to attain the latest information and recommendations from federal, state, and local authorities.”
Oak Ridge Schools said it will use that information to create a plan to keep students and staff safe.
“Staff, students, and parents will receive information regarding a coronavirus plan should the implementation of such action become necessary,” the message said.
The school system said it will communicate with students, staff, and parents about the importance of consistently practicing these recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
- Stay home when you are sick.
- Cover your cough and sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom, before eating, and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
- If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol.
- Always wash with soap and water if hands are visibly dirty.
The message to staff on Friday said the Oak Ridge Schools Maintenance and Operations Department will continue to work diligently to provide healthy and safe environments.
“Our staff will continue to utilize some of the newest technologies with proven EPA-registered disinfectants in their efforts to minimize any illness outbreaks within our system,” the message said. The EPA is the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
The Anderson County Health Department sent information to Oak Ridge Schools about the use of face masks. People report not being able to find masks at stores and suppliers across the region.
What You Can Do
While the immediate risk of this new virus to Tennesseans is believed to be low at this time, everyone can do their part to help respond to this emerging public health threat.
Use of facemasks in the U.S.
At this time, CDC does not recommend the use of face masks or respirators among the general public. While limited person-to-person spread of 2019- nCoV among close contacts has been detected, this virus is not currently spreading in the community in the United States.
In the United States, person-to-person spread has been seen only among people in close and prolonged contact with someone who has become infected with COVID-19 in China.
If you are not sick:
- Members of the general public in the United States DO NOT need to use face masks. CDC does NOT recommend that people who are well wear a face mask to protect themselves from respiratory viruses, including COVID-19.
- Masks should be reserved for people who are sick, so they can protect others from getting infected.
If you are sick:Â (i.e., people with confirmed or possible COVID-19 infection, including patients under investigation who do not need to be hospitalized, and people with confirmed COVID-19 infection who were hospitalized and determined to be medically stable to go home):
- You should wear a face mask when you are around other people (e.g., sharing a room or vehicle) and before you enter a healthcare providerâ€™s office. This will help protect the people around from getting infected.Â
- If you are not able to wear a face mask (for example, because it causes trouble breathing), then people who are in the same room with you should wear a face mask, but they should also limit the amount of time they spend in the same room with you.
If worn properly, a face mask helps block the spread of respiratory viruses by the wearer from spreading to other people and surfaces.
People with increased risk of exposure to COVID-19, for example household contacts and caregivers of people with known or suspected COVID-19, should wear a facemask if the patient is not able to wear a face mask (for example, due to difficulty breathing while wearing a face mask).
Face masks should be used once and then thrown away in the trash.
Anderson County Schools said it is communicating with local, state, and federal about potential plans of action if a case of COVID-19 is found in Anderson County or a surrounding county. It offered similar recommendations as Oak Ridge Schools, such as advising people to wash their hands with warm soap and water, avoiding close contact with people who are sick, staying home when you are sick, and cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched objects and surfaces.
“Our maintenance and custodial staffs are working very diligently to make sure our buildings are as sanitized as possible,” Anderson County Schools said in a message to parents, students, teachers, and staff members on Friday. “They (the maintenance and custodial staffs) are as well following the same procedures as they do during cold and flu season.”
The safety and health of students are the top priorities, the school district said.
“We want to ensure you that we are doing as much as possible now to prepare for a case of COVID-19,” the district said. “We are currently in talks with and/or have scheduled meetings with state and local health organizations so that we have the most up-to-date information about the illness.”