Michigan’s education and health departments are joining forces to create guidance for school districts across the state in the event of a novel coronavirus epidemic.
The joint effort comes after federal health officials on Tuesday said schools must prepare now for the potential of the virus being found within their communities and determine what protocols are in place for school dismissals and closures.
Alternatively, they said districts should explore if online learning options are available.
In Michigan, decisions about whether a school needs to close because of a coronavirus exposure should be made with input from local health officials, said Lynn Sutfin, spokeswoman for the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.
“We will be providing further guidance, along with MDE, to schools in the coming days,” Sutfin said, referring to the Michigan Department of Education.
Officials in the Detroit Public Schools Community District plan to send home a letter to parents regarding what actions the district will take if a coronavirus case appears. They’re also working with local health authorities to provide resources and tips for families and staff to avoid spreading the virus.
The new coronavirus, COVID-19, is a respiratory virus much like the flu and is highly contagious. Symptoms include severe cough, fever and difficulty breathing. In the worst cases, it can cause organ failure.
Illinois schools are currently advising students and staff students to wash their hands with soap and water or use alcohol-based sanitizer.
There are currently no active cases of coronavirus in Michigan, according to information on the state health department web site. The department is monitoring more than 300 people.
The virus has rapidly spread across the globe, stirring anxiety here in the U.S. There are more than 80,000 reported cases internationally, including the U.S., Italy, Iran, Japan, and China, where the outbreak originated in December, and almost 3000 reported fatalities. There’s also the first case of the virus in California with no prior travel history to the affected areas.
Chris Wigent, executive director of the Michigan Association of Superintendents & Administrators, emailed his membership Thursday about the ongoing discussions at the state level.
Wigent underscored that the association is not seeking to raise more anxieties around the topic but is taking the steps to equip school districts with information and best practices. He also recommended that school districts begin contacting their local health departments on the issue.
“In short, the purpose of this email is not to raise any additional concerns or to sound an alarm on this topic, but merely to let you know that we are working hard with others to ensure that we are being as proactive as possible,” he wrote.
Are you worried about coronavirus at your school? Tell us here.
You can read the Michigan Association of Superintendents & Administrators’ email sent to public school leaders below.
Sent 8:31 a.m. on Feb. 26, 2020
All MASA Members,
As the Coronavirus continues to be in the headlines more and more every day, and school related articles such as the one recently published by Education Week continue to show up in the media, I wanted to reach out to all of you and let you know that there are currently state-wide discussions taking place regarding this important issue between MDE, the Department of Health and Human Services, and other organizations. MASA will work closely with these partners to provide information and resources to districts as soon as they are released with the intent being to make sure that you have the most up-to-date information.
In short, the purpose of this email is not to raise any additional concerns or to sound an alarm on this topic, but merely to let you know that we are working hard with others to ensure that we are being as proactive as possible, and that superintendents and school districts are as equipped to respond to this ever growing matter. I would also suggest that if you have not done so already, that you reach out to your local/county health department just to touch base with them on this topic and ensure that the lines of communication are open.
More to come on this one, but for now please know that this is high on our radar.
Executive Director, MASA