COVID-19 awareness at local schools, BSCC

By NICOLE SMITH
Posted 3/10/20

Local school systems and Bevill State Community College are taking extra precautions as cases of coronavirus (COVID-19) increase across the United States.

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COVID-19 awareness at local schools, BSCC

Posted

Local school systems and Bevill State Community College are taking extra precautions as cases of coronavirus (COVID-19) increase across the United States.

Above all, education institutions are encouraging a number of practices to safeguard against the disease. 

Bevill State Community College has shared an informational graphic from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention with its students to educate on ways to stop the spread of germs, such as avoiding close contact with sick individuals, sneezing or coughing into a tissue, and washing hands often for at least 20 seconds with soap and water. The CDC also recommends individuals avoid touching their faces, stay home when they are sick (unless visiting a doctor), and disinfect surfaces often.  

"Bevill State Community College has provided information to our students, faculty and staff on how to prevent the spread of respiratory diseases such as coronavirus," BSCC President Dr. Kim Ennis told the Daily Mountain Eagle on Monday. "We are also posting print information at all of our locations. My hope is that everyone will follow these precautions." 

Jasper City Schools shared some of the same precautionary measures on the school system's website recently. Superintendent Dr. Ann Jackson said the COVID-19 awareness information was provided to superintendents from the Alabama State Department of Education, in conjunction with the Alabama Department of Public Health.

Jackson did not provide any further comments about the school system's effort to prevent the spread of diseases, such as COVID-19, by press time.

A general statement released on school system's website about COVID-19 read, in part, "Jasper City Schools wants to remind staff, students, and families that washing your hands, covering your mouth when coughing or sneezing, and remaining at home when sick or feverish are the best ways to prevent the spread of flu or other respiratory illnesses. This information will be reiterated to students in the days leading up to spring break."

Jasper City Schools further noted, "While the system is being proactive in its approach, these messages are not intended to cause alarm, but to keep students and staff healthy and safe. JCS will be providing information on the website to keep families and staff informed. Prevention remains our priority."

Jasper City Schools will reportedly coordinate with the City of Jasper, the Walker County Health Department, State Department of Education, the Alabama Public Health Department, and the Walker County Emergency Management Agency to continue encouraging practices to help prevent the spread of germs.    

The City of Jasper is already taking precautionary measures if COVID-19 were ever diagnosed locally.

Jasper Mayor David O'Mary told the Daily Mountain Eagle on Monday that the Jasper Police Department has ordered a number of face masks if needed. The city is also expected to listen in on a conference call regarding COVID-19 with the National League of Municipalities. 

Officials with Walker County Schools are also taking a proactive approach to teaching students about the importance of handwashing. 

"We're doing handwashing teaching for every student, Pre-K through 12th-grade. They're actually watching videos on proper handwashing," Margaret Guthrie, the director of health services for the Walker County Board of Education, said on Monday. "Right now, we're just treating it like we would the flu. We're just monitoring."

She said all students through fourth grade are always required to watch videos on proper handwashing and how to prevent the spread of germs; however, county school board officials felt the video would be beneficial to all students during this time, regardless of age and years of education.

Guthrie said information will also soon be sent home with students on illness prevention strategies.   

Walker County Schools Superintendent Dr. Joel Hagood added that the school system is being "cognizant of people we may have been traveling abroad and taking necessary precautions."

The Alabama Department of Public Health has also set restrictions on students returning to school if they have traveled to a Level 3 or Level 2 area with ongoing COVID-19 transmission, such as China, Iran, South Korea, Italy or Japan. 

The Alabama Department of Public Health reports that symptoms of COVID-19 can include mild to severe respiratory illness, fever, cough, and shortness of breath between two to 14 days after exposure. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control, COVID-19 is spread through person-to-person contact (within about six feet) and through respiratory droplets when an infected person sneezes or coughs. The CDC further states that the disease has the potential to be contagious before an infected person begins experiencing symptoms. 

There is also the possibility of contracting COVID-19 by touching an infected surface.

While many people have been wearing face masks in an attempt to keep from catching coronavirus, the Alabama Department of Public Health states that wearing a mask will not provide protection against COVID-19. It is, however, recommended that people with COVID-19 symptoms wear face masks. 

The CDC states that COVID-19 has been confirmed in 90 locations, including the United States, as of March 7.

In the United States, COVID-19 has been reported in 35 states, including the District of Columbia. As of noon Monday, the CDC was reporting 423 cases of coronavirus in the United States and 19 deaths due to the disease.   

As of press time, no cases had been reported in Alabama; however, COVID-19 had been diagnosed in the neighboring states of Georgia, Florida and Tennessee.

The Alabama Department of Public Health has warned that anyone who develops symptoms of COVID-19 should stay quarantined and notify their healthcare provider for further assistance. 

While COVID-19 has not been reported in Alabama, influenza remains widespread. The Daily Mountain Eagle attempted to contact Brookwood Baptist Health for comment on COVID-19 and to inquire about flu levels locally but a statement was not received by press time. 

The emergency room waiting area at Walker Baptist Medical Center, however, was full over the weekend and on Monday, with some people wearing face masks. Area urgent care facilities have also been crowded. 

It is unclear if the high patient volume is due to widespread flu or general illness.