Updated: Schools take new steps to protect against coronavirus

With the confirmation of at least seven cases of the coronavirus COVID-19 in Williamson and Davidson Counties, the Diocese of Nashville’s Schools Office has issued additional guidelines to protect students, faculty and staff.

“The health of our students and school communities remains our top priority, as such, prudent measures must be taken to address the challenges this virus presents,” School Superintendent Rebecca Hammel wrote in a letter to parents. “Please know the Catholic Schools Office and fellow diocesan and parish staff continue to monitor information and guidance delivered by federal, state, and local authorities and public health experts.”

Earlier, all Catholic schools in the diocese were directed to develop contingency plans should the outbreak of COVID-19 force schools to close for an extended period.

“Currently the number of cases in Middle Tennessee have reached a level where new precautionary measures need to be taken on a larger scale,” Hammel wrote. After consulting with Bishop J. Mark Spalding and receiving his approval, the Schools Office issued the following directions to diocesan schools:

• Schools will close all or part of the school day on Friday, March 13, 2020, for teachers to properly collaborate and establish lessons that can be easily distributed and managed at home or online.

• Students will be directed to take the necessary tools and resources home with them before dismissing for spring break.

• Schools will have the school deep-cleaned using products targeting COVID 19, MRSA, flu and common cold viruses over spring break as a precautionary measure.

• Students traveling internationally to countries identified by the CDC as a Level 3 Health Risk, (countries to which the CDC recommends avoiding non-essential travel, including China, Italy, Iran and South Korea), will be required to self-isolate at home for 14 days before returning to school. Students traveling elsewhere internationally or domestically to regions with high frequency of reported cases are asked to self-isolate at home for five days. 

• On Thursday, March 19, 2020, school administrators will communicate updated conditions of the school and surrounding community and alert families on the status of the school’s reopening on Monday, March 23, 2020. (Immaculate Conception will communicate on Thursday, March 26, 2020 for school’s reopening Monday, March 30th.)

• Iowa Assessment testing at our elementary schools will be delayed pending analysis of conditions after spring break, but will begin no sooner than Wednesday, March 25.  Immaculate Conception’s schedule will vary as determined by its spring break week March 23-27, 2020.

• Decisions for future events, particularly school-sponsored travel and events that draw large crowds together, will be made in consultation the Catholic Schools Office and taking all current conditions into consideration. 

• You can stay abreast of diocesan news pertaining to this virus at www.dioceseofnashville.com.  For information on speaking with your children about the Coronavirus, please visit the National Association of School Psychologists website or the National Association of School Nurses.

“While events such as these can incite discord in communities, let us as people of faith, place our trust in God and pray for the intercessions of our Blessed Mother Mary, that all communities are restored to good health and that those who suffer any illness are granted comfort,” Hammel wrote. “Let us also continue to hold the recently deceased and those affected by the tornadoes in our prayers, that all may know the comforting love of our Heavenly Father.”

A coronavirus is a kind of common virus that causes an infection in the nose, sinuses or upper throat.

Most coronaviruses aren’t dangerous. But in early 2020, after a December 2019 outbreak in China, the World Health Organization identified a new type, which can be fatal.

The new coronavirus spreads the same way other coronaviruses do: through person-to-person contact. Symptoms can show up anywhere from two to 14 days after exposure, and include a fever, cough and shortness of breath.

Infections range from mild to serious. Those most at risk of death are the elderly and people with weakened immune systems.

Locally, a more common problem is the flu.

According to the Metro Nashville Health Department, flu is a seasonal respiratory (lung) infection that causes fever and a cough or sore throat. It is most common during the fall and winter months. Vaccination is the best way to protect against the flu. Seasonal influenza sometimes causes severe illness or complications, but the great majority of people recover fully without any medical treatment.

To prevent the spread of COVID-19 or the flu, public health officials at the federal and state level continue to recommend that common-sense practices utilized during flu season are the best defense against illness.

• If you are experiencing symptoms of illness, stay home and avoid contact with others.

• Frequently wash your hands with an alcohol-based hand rub or warm water and soap.

• Cover your mouth and nose with a flexed elbow or tissue when sneezing or coughing.

• Avoid close contact with anyone who has a fever or cough.

Visit www.dioceseofnashville.com for further updates.