Q: Have any schoolchildren in California been diagnosed with the coronavirus known as COVID-19?
A: So far, no California schoolchildren have been diagnosed with the virus. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “preliminary data suggest that older adults and persons with underlying health conditions or compromised immune systems might be at greater risk for severe illness from this virus.”
Q: As a parent, to what extent should I be concerned about the coronavirus at my child’s school?
A: Health risk from the coronavirus remains low at this time, according to the California Department of Public Health. However, the California Department of Education is urging districts to prepare for the possible spread of the virus by identifying plans and protocols for communicating with families and plan for educating students while at home if schools are closed. The decision to close a school would be made at the local level.
Q: What are authorities telling school districts to communicate with the public? Do authorities recommend that I or my children take any precautions?
A: The California Department of Health recommends that schools and districts take “common sense precautions” that help prevent the spread of all diseases. These can also be practiced by children and their families. These include: keep children home if they are sick until a fever has been gone for at least 24 hours without the use of medicine; seek medical care immediately if symptoms, such as a high fever or difficulty breathing, become more severe; cover coughs with a sleeve or tissue; keep tissues and “no touch” trash cans close by; wash hands often and keep soap dispensers filled; clean frequently touched surfaces routinely; if desired, wear a face mask if you are coughing or sneezing.
Q: What should I tell my child about the virus — if anything?
A: “Be honest and say there is a cold virus that is showing up in different countries,” said Yvonne Maldonado, director of Infection Control at Stanford Children’s Hospital. “It makes some people very sick, but most people — especially children — seem not to get very sick with it.” She added that so far, there are not very many cases of the virus in the U.S. “Right now,” she said, “it’s safe to carry out normal activities here.”
Q: What if my school district has not communicated with me?
A: “You should ask your children’s schools about their plans for school dismissals or school closures,” Nancy Messonnier, a director at the Centers for Disease Control, said Tuesday (Feb. 25). She also encouraged parents to “ask about plans for teleschool,” referring to online learning.
Q: Can I expect that all schools will be stocked with soap so students can wash their hands?
A: All public schools in California are required to keep their soap dispensers filled, according to the California Department of Education.
Q: Have any college students been exposed to the virus?
A: Yes. Three UC Davis roommates who had been living in the Kearney residence hall are in isolation. One, who returned home, has mild symptoms and was tested for the virus, according to a campus statement. The other two were moved to other campus locations and have agreed to self-quarantine. Since they show no symptoms of illness, they have not been tested. As an additional precautionary measure, the campus is disinfecting all student housing and dining services properties daily. Officials would not specify how the students came into contact with the virus or whether they had come into contact with a Solano County resident who has been diagnosed with the virus and is being treated at the UC Davis Medical Center in Sacramento. The case is described as possibly the first infection without known exposure through travel or close contact with an infected individual.
In the Community College system, two students have been asked to self-quarantine for two weeks after being exposed to a patient who was diagnosed with the virus last week. Both students — one from American River College and another who attends Cosumnes River College, both in Sacramento — had contact with the patient while working as medical professionals, according to the Los Rios Community College District website.
Q: Has the virus affected college programs or travel abroad?
A: Yes. The University of California has suspended its overseas programs in Beijing, Shanghai and Seoul. The California State University has also suspended its program in Seoul and is monitoring the spread of the virus in Italy, but has no plans to suspend its Florence program “as of now,” according to spokesman Michael Uhlenkamp. Suspending a program means students who are there are returned home and additional students are not allowed to join the program.
Q: How should colleges handle possible cases of infected students or faculty?
A: The California Department of Public Health urges anyone who has traveled from mainland China in the prior 14 days and has symptoms of respiratory illness such as fever and cough to return home or be relocated to a private room. Officials should then contact the local health department. The directive urged schools to ensure the privacy of the affected students and faculty and prevent them from being discriminated against or stigmatized.
* Staff writers Larry Gordon, Diana Lambert and Michael Burke contributed to this report.