Following Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis declaring a public health emergency on March 1 in regard to two state residents in separate counties testing positive for the novel coronavirus, local schools are preparing to address any potential impact the virus may have on the school system.
While Japan closed all schools in the country to halt the spread of the coronavirus, school districts in Florida aren’t ready to take that drastic of a step yet. Districts say they’re in contact with the Florida Health Department of Health (FDOH) and monitoring the situation.
Hendry County Schools Superintendent Paul Puletti said custodians currently are using a cleaning product known as Rejuvnal that is effective in combating and controlling all bacteria and viruses. But if Hendry County has a confirmed case of coronavirus, particularly in one of the schools, the health department will become involved and protocols will change drastically.
“We will change to a different disinfectant,” said Mr. Puletti. “And in this event, every classroom will be sprayed using pump sprayers at the end of every day. The spray will be applied to all desks, chairs and contact areas. Bathrooms will be sprayed multiple times per day. Every cafeteria table and contact area will be cleaned between all lunches, and additional hand sanitizers will be provided in each school for student and staff use.”
The School District of Palm Beach County stated they are being proactive and following CDC recommendations and guidelines in preparation for potential cases of the virus. School district leadership is reviewing response plans accordingly in full compliance with CDC and FDOH and guidance to ensure that all necessary resources and procedures are in place to address any potential coronavirus impact in the community.
“The Palm Beach County School District has a robust, long-standing professional relationship with the FDOH,” said Palm Beach County Schools Superintendent Donald Fennoy. “We will work in close collaboration with all public health officials and governmental agencies throughout the state to provide guidance, promote awareness and initiate response actions as needed.”
The Okeechobee County School District is continuing with the same precautions as with the flu. School nurses have also been giving handwashing education all month in the schools, along with flu prevention, and will continue to have them do so.
Although there are currently no directives in place specifically regarding coronavirus, the district is monitoring the virus and reminds all staff, parents and students to take precautions and stay home if they have symptoms of the flu or any other illness.
In the executive order announced on March 1, Gov. DeSantis said he is designating FDOH as the lead state agency to coordinate emergency response activities among the various state agencies and local governments. FDOH will make its own determinations as to quarantine, isolation and other necessary public health interventions as permitted under Florida law.
“This is the scenario that we prepare for every day in public health,” said Florida’s surgeon general, Dr. Scott Rivkees. “The department is moving forward with the appropriate plans, and we are working directly with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and local medical providers to ensure these individuals receive the proper treatment and that anyone who has come into contact with them is following the necessary protocols, limiting or stopping any further spread.”