Tabernacle School District also got that message from the Burlington County health department as it advocates the simple task of hand washing as the best protection against the virus.
“You would be shocked at the number of children who do not believe soap is necessary for hand washing. Or two hands,” school nurse Eileen Latini told board of education members at their meeting March 2.
She and fellow school nurse Barbara Wisniewski reminded the board that hand washing is the best line of defense against COVID-19.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as of deadline at least 18 states have reported patients who tested positive for the virus. A possible case in New Jersey is being studied by health officials.
But during a March 2 briefing, the World Health Organization said the rate of confirmed cases in China, the epicenter of the outbreak, is at the lowest it has been since Jan. 22.
Tabernacle’s school nurses showed middle school students a video on virus precautions, including washing hands after touching surfaces and using hand sanitizer, to “drill it into students” why it is important to be clean.
“Unfortunately, a teacher reported to me moments later that a kid sneezed into his hands and said, ‘What’s the difference? I don’t care,’ and again, we ask for parents’ support in this,” Latini noted.
“We can only do so much.”
Student absences are monitored by the nurses — at the directive of the state — as a means of tracking illnesses from child to child or grade to grade. If an illness affects a large swaths of students, Facilities Manager Keith Higginbotham mobilizes maintenance to disinfect the classrooms of infected students.
“We follow the manufacturer’s guidelines on the specific time a product needs to be on a desk or whatever,” he shared.
As of deadline, state Department of Health statistics show New Jersey’s threat level for CODIV-19 is currently low, but is monitored by health and government officials. A low threat level negates the necessity for a face mask of any sort. The CDC has urged people to refrain from buying them except in the cases of health care workers or those who share a residence with someone diagnosed with the virus.
Higginbotham said his staff regularly disinfects all surfaces and uses chemicals as directed on a manufacturer’s label to kill germs. Educational signage on hand washing provided by the CDC will be place in district bathrooms as they are laminated.
“I do not buy into the line of reason with one product that is citrus-scented and can clean everything from toilets to windows,” Higginbotham noted. “We have a dedicated disinfectant for disinfecting, wipes to clean off phones (and) computer keyboards and such.”
In the event of a major outbreak in New Jersey, Tabernacle interim Superintendent Thomas Christensen said he will follow advice from the county and state health departments on closure of schools.
Christensen hopes to continue lessons electronically to avoid a a lapse in instruction, but he said limitations exist on students who may not have access to a computer or the internet.
“I assume a survey will need to be sent out to parents to ask if they will need a computer sent home,” board member Dan Dilks said. “A lot of them won’t need it and that’s great because it leaves more for the students that will. The internet part, for those in the community who don’t have it, I think we’ll need to figure out an alternative.”
Despite some hysteria regarding the novel CODIV-19, hand washing remains the best way to protect from most communicable diseases.
“It’s basic, but you’d be surprised how many times over the course of the day where you think, ‘Hey, I didn’t wash my hands,’” Higginbotham said.
“We’ve been drilling it into people as much as possible.”
The board of education will hold its next meeting March 16 at 7 p.m. at 132 New Road.