COVID-19 Update, March 11, 2020: No Sullivan County cases, District takes precautions

From Superintendent Michael Williams

Dear parents and guardians,

I wanted to take this opportunity to contact you regarding the coronavirus issue, how it is affecting the Tri-Valley District and what we are doing to be prepared. There are some things to remember when discussing this outbreak.

First, there are NO confirmed cases in Sullivan County! Most of the confirmed cases have been in Ulster, Dutchess, and most importantly, Westchester counties. Of the 200+ confirmed cases in New York, over 100 have come from one area (New Rochelle). Those most affected have had serious underlying health issues or considerably compromised immune systems. There has been an abundance of irresponsible journalism, which has led many people to panic.

Here are some interesting facts regarding the coronavirus and the flu:

  • The coronavirus is not new to humans. SARS is an example of a coronavirus. What is different about this coronavirus is that it is new, hence the name “novel coronavirus.”
  • There have been over 1 billion cases of the flu diagnosed so far this year worldwide while there have been 116 cases of coronavirus diagnosed so far.
  • Over 650,000 have died from the flu this year alone worldwide while just over 4000 have died from coronavirus (27 in the US as of March 10)

When put in perspective this outbreak is relatively minor in comparison. What is concerning is that no vaccine exists for the coronavirus yet, and while a vaccine is being developed as quickly as possible, it will take time before it is available on a worldwide basis.

Staying safe, healthy

Of course, we are taking this seriously and doing what we can to help prevent the spread of the virus. This includes extra cleaning and disinfecting of instructional spaces, encouraging students and staff to stay home if they are sick and encouraging everyone to follow the general rules set forth by the CDC. These include:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick
  • Stay home when you are sick
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces

I am also pleased to report that Rolling V, our transportation provider, has increased their efforts to sanitize the buses your children are riding on.

Meanwhile, the district is preparing to meet the needs of our students and staff in the event the virus affects our community. Should a student or staff member be diagnosed with or presumed to have come in contact with COVID-19, it is required that the District will close the effected buildings for 1-2 days to thoroughly sanitize and disinfect. We will also be required to report the suspected infection and school closure to the State Ed Department and the Sullivan County Department of Health. In the event of a school closure related to COVID-19, the District will first use our remaining “snow days.” An extended closure would have an impact on give-back days and could affect our Spring Recess.

Some parents have asked whether or not they should keep their children home at this time. While that is certainly a parent’s right, children come to school each day not knowing who may be sick and what illness they may have. This nationwide concern may get worse before it gets better and since we don’t know exactly how long this will last, any decision on “self-quarantine” may be a lengthy one, and there is no substitute for a child being in class getting instruction from a certified teacher. That being said, every parent must do what they believe is best for their child.

The state Department of Health has made quarantine mandatory for individuals returning to the U.S. from a known high-risk exposure area. Based on this, any Tri-Valley student, family member or employee who has traveled to such an area should notify the school principal before coming to school. If the district becomes aware that a student or staff member is diagnosed with COVID-19 we will notify staff and parents. Please also note that exposure to COVID-19 can occur from any person-to-person contact and is not limited to a particular race or ethnicity.

If I can offer any advice at all it would be to NOT PANIC! As I mentioned earlier, there are many, including me that believe there has been an abundance of irresponsible journalism that has caused panic amongst many. It seems that in modern journalism is it is not a “crisis” it is not news at all.

Lastly, many larger events have been canceled across the country, including one regional FFA event that has affected our students here in Tri-Valley. While I believe that we must keep going on as normally as possible, it may be necessary to either cancel some larger events or limit attendance at student events by the general public to minimize the chance of any infection that may be undiagnosed from spreading. In any case of a cancelation or change in schedule, I will do a general call, text and e-mail to the community as soon as the decision is made. Some of these may be last-minute, so I apologize now for any inconvenience this may cause you.

Please know that, as always, the health and safety of our students and staff is our highest priority, and we will remain vigilant in our efforts to help prevent the spread of this illness. I appreciate anything you can do to help! As always, if you have questions please call the school.

I thank you for your continued support of the Tri-Valley School District!

Sincerely,

Mike Williams
Superintendent of Schools