Alissa Eckert, MS; Dan Higgins, MAMS
The coronavirus has infected many worldwide, causing a lot of panic and cancellation of events, from in-person classes at universities to international sports games. Hundreds of people are sick and dozens of people have died in the U.S. and the spread of the virus is inescapable.
In late 2019, an outbreak of pneumonia with an unknown cause came to the Chinese city of Wuhan. Chinese scientists isolated a new coronavirus from patient groups in Wuhan later in January. The disease caused by this virus has been named “COVID-19,” short for coronavirus disease 2019, more commonly known as the coronavirus. There have been many news stories and informative articles warning people of the symptoms and how to stay away from it, but what have you heard that is actually true?
The World Health Organization (WHO) officially announced the COVID-19 a pandemic on March 11. Currently, the coronavirus outbreak has spread to over 100 countries and territories and the WHO confirmed 105,586 known cases on March 8. Multiple cruise ships have had outbreaks during their voyage, causing their passengers to be forced into quarantine for as long as 14 days.
There are no cases in Albemarle County or Charlottesville City at this time, but Albemarle County Public Schools is currently in Phase Two of their COVID-19 management plan.
Monday will be a non-student day for teachers to plan instructional needs for students if schools close for a long period of time. They are communicating with staff members, parents, and students about any known information. Topics in these communications include tips to stay healthy, and updates about possible school closure, and planning in the case that the virus has spread to Charlottesville. Schools are monitoring sickness-related absences, providing plenty of hygienic supplies, creating plans for distance learning in the event of school closure, and making decisions about field trips.
ACPS has prohibited gatherings of more than 100 people. The auditorium during Patriot Period has been capped at 100 people, instead of its usual 150. Clubs can still meet as long as they are not over 100 people.
Any field trips outside of Albemarle have been canceled. VHSL canceled the state basketball tournament games this weekend, and all sports events outside of the county have been canceled. Sports practices are still going on, but they are being monitored. The jazz band concert has been rescheduled to May 31. The SATs are still happening as of now, but they are going to be more spread out to prevent the spread of the virus. There are no announced plans for prom or graduation cancellations, but County officials will be continually monitoring the situation.
When the unavoidable happens and the virus spreads to our region, schools will communicate what measures the school is taking, continue to monitor ill-related absences, isolate ill individuals, have teachers review infection control with students, disinfect surfaces frequently, and institute “social distancing” to further slow down the spread of the virus.
In the situation where there are cases in the Albemarle County community, further measures will be taken to distance individuals, keep the schools clean, provide communication through a variety of methods, and isolate ill individuals (Albemarle County Public Schools COVID-19 Plan).
What Should You Look For
You may be wondering what this virus really is and what you should look out for. COVID-19 is a new virus that can infect both animals and people and can cause many respiratory illnesses. It can spread from person to person if a sick person coughs, sneezes, talks, or breathes. The best way to keep yourself safe is by washing your hands frequently and well, and keep yourself from touching your face.
One common myth is that COVID-19 symptoms are flu-like. They are very similar, but the first symptoms you will start to see if you really have the coronavirus are dry coughing, a fever, and also having difficulty breathing or shortness of breath. A runny nose is not included in this list.
These symptoms can start showing up after two to 14 days, but new research has found that they start about five days after infection. Even if you think you may have it and are experiencing these symptoms, it is still flu season right now so it is statistically more likely that you have the flu rather than COVID-19. Just to be safe, if you have these symptoms call your doctor.
Health experts have warned that the spread of the virus is inevitable, so here are a few things you can do to prepare yourself.
The first thing you can do is to calm down. Most people who have been infected do not become severely ill and can recover. Most of the rumors being spread are not true. The coronavirus can’t be transmitted through goods manufactured in China or any country that has reported COVID-19 cases. The virus can’t be spread through mosquito bites, certain people are not more likely to get infected than other people, and face masks will not help if you are not sick. Most surgical masks are too loose to protect you from inhaling the virus and by stocking masks, you are actually taking away important resources for health care professionals. Only wear a mask if you are sick so that you prevent the spread of the virus.
You should also frequently wash your hands, don’t touch your face, and prepare for at least a 14 days-worth of home supplies, medication, and other resources. If you are sick, stay home so as to not spread sickness through your school or work. People of all ages can be infected, but older people and people with pre-existing medical conditions are more likely to become severely sick.
The spread of the coronavirus is ultimately inevitable, so you should try your best to keep yourself clean and prepare for the virus. Be careful, watch out for rumors, and keep track of any symptoms that come up.