Each Wednesday, Superintendents have a weekly conference call with the Director of the Department of Health, Dr. Nicole Alexander Scott. This update summarizes the information coming from the DOH, recommendations from the state, and corresponding actions being taken by the district.
Yesterday afternoon, RIDOH’s press release indicated that two additional cases of COVID-19 were identified in RI. Extensive contact tracing is being done for these cases. The governor has declared a state of emergency in RI, providing access to additional resources from the federal government.
The RI team is following guidance from the CDC regarding school closures. RIDOH, RIDE, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the District together makes the decision about whether or not to close a school on a case-by-case basis. School closures that have already happened have had COVID-19 cases within the school. The primary deciding factor is noting how many students and/or teachers and staff are sick or have been exposed. These decisions are based on science. There is no current need for any mass closures of public schools at this time.
The DOH and RIDE are encouraging RI K-12 schools to submit virtual learning plans for approval. Smithfield is drafting a plan, which will be presented to the School Committee on Monday.
It is important to note that there is no evidence that children are more susceptible to COVID-19 than adults. Children with COVID-19 tend to have mild symptoms. School nurses have been given guidance on handling students who present with flu-like symptoms. If you are feeling sick, please refrain from visiting our schools for any reason.
The DOH continues to recommend:
Wash hands often with soap and water for 20 seconds.
Avoid touching eyes, nose, and mouth.
Cover coughs and sneezes into a tissue or your elbow.
Stay away from people who are sick.
Encourage students and staff to stay home when they are sick.
Follow routine cleaning procedures.
For events and mass gatherings, including K-12 sports activities, the guidance made available to public schools includes a limit of 250. Our principals have created a list of activities planned for the next few months. We will be immediately cancelling or postponing activities through March 27th that meet this criteria and will await further guidance for activities after March 27th. There will be no indoor, school-wide assemblies for the next two weeks.
Even at smaller events, we will be taking great care to ensure participants have access to hand washing and hand sanitizers, and will be providing physical distance and other means to thwart the spread of viruses. For such activities, we will consider the access to hand washing, proximity of participants, and the necessity of the activity before making any determination for cancellation or postponement. We ask that parent groups sponsoring activities take the same precautions.
We remind our school community to stay home if you are sick. For our vulnerable populations, including our family members who are 60 or older and/or have underlying health conditions, please do not attend any close proximity events and avoid gatherings with 10 older adults or more.