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CDC says schools should prepare for Coronavirus

By Cathy Woodruff, Senior Writer

The director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control has advised schools across the country to prepare for a surge in illness due to the novel coronavirus and urged parents to contact their local school leaders about plans for response if local infections are detected.

In New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced today that he and the Legislature are poised to approve an emergency $40 million appropriation to bolster preparedness for coping with the illness. Cuomo said the funding would enable hiring of additional staff and purchase of supplies, such as additional masks and equipment, as needed.

In related action, the governor said New York is seeking federal authorization to conduct testing for the virus at the state’s Wadsworth Laboratory and the New York City public health lab, enabling the state to expand and expedite test results. He also said the state Health Department will bring together representatives of local health departments and hospitals to review protocols and best practices and to help ensure they are prepared to combat the spread of the novel coronavirus.

For the moment, school leaders have received little guidance on any specific measures to take, beyond the steps recommended for seasonal outbreaks of the flu, such as frequent hand-washing, diligent disinfection of frequently touched surfaces, covering coughs and sneezes with a tissue and encouraging staff and students to stay home when sick.

Even without any cases of coronavirus identified yet in New York, health experts have noted that those actions can help prevent transmission of colds and flu. Fewer cases of flu could help lessen the strain on health care workers and other resources, if and when an outbreak of the new coronavirus arrives.

Dan Domenech, executive director of the AASA, the School Superintendents Association, a national group that has been asked to support CDC informational efforts during past outbreaks, recommended that school districts work closely with local health departments. Among first steps, he said, should be to establish a process for determining whether students are contracting the virus and a system for reporting updates to health officials.

Read NYSSBA's fact sheet on the coronavirus here.

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