- Cama-i, quyana tailuci!
- (Central Yup’ik)
- "Greetings, thank you for coming!"
Novel Coronavirus/Influenza Memo to Superintendents
This webpage is intended to help district staff find brief, current, and useful sources of information as they plan for the flu season. Local plans should be in accordance with the recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS). Districts do not need to submit these plans to DEED.
District plans should include the following basic components:
- Improve the sanitation of your schools and the personal sanitation of staff and students.
- Communicate with parents about their responsibilities to monitor their children’s health.
- Communicate with parents about school actions regarding the flu.
- Encourage staff and students to consider obtaining annual flu vaccinations
- Watch for flu symptoms among staff and students, and send ill people home.
We will keep you informed about any flu-related state regulations or procedures. DHSS will continue to communicate with superintendents through e-mailed memos, which we will send to you.
Novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) is a new virus that was first detected in China in December 2019. Health experts are concerned because it spreads from person to person and has the potential to cause severe illness. While in some cases illness can be severe and require hospitalization, many individuals infected with novel coronavirus recover by resting, drinking plenty of liquids, and taking pain and fever-reducing medications.
What is the difference between seasonal and novel coronavirus?
Coronaviruses are a family of viruses and there are different types of coronavirus within that family, much like there are different types of influenza viruses. Coronaviruses in general are not new, they are quite common and are a frequent cause of respiratory illnesses such as the common cold. Coronaviruses tend to circulate in the fall and winter months, similar to influenza. Most people get infected with these viruses at some point in their lives.
The type of coronavirus that has recently emerged in Wuhan, China is a new type of coronavirus and is infecting people for the first time (which means that people do not have any immunity to it).
What are common symptoms of 2019‐nCoV?
Information to date suggests this virus is causing symptoms consistent with a respiratory illness such as cough, fever, and shortness of breath. Unless an individual has recently traveled from China, or been in contact with someone showing symptoms who has recently traveled from China, it should not be assumed that respiratory illnesses are novel coronavirus.
Do school events need to be cancelled?
At this time, there is no need to cancel school or social events. There are no cases of novel coronavirus in Alaska, and there are no restrictions on public gatherings. Students should be reminded to practice good hygiene to avoid illness.
Alaska Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS)
The Alaska Section of Epidemiology is closely monitoring the rapidly-emerging outbreak of novel coronovirus first identified in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China. Additional cases have been identified in a growing number of other international locations, including the United States. There are currently no confirmed cases in Alaska.
Please call 269-8000 with any questions.
DHSS is working with the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other state and local public health partners to respond to this emerging public health threat. Please refer to the website below for current information.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
The CDC has numerous resources on its website regarding the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV). School districts may find the Frequently Asked Questions and Answers helpful in creating an appropriate and educated epidemiologically based response to concerns regarding novel coronavirus.
Finally, the novel coronavirus serves as an important reminder of the importance of including pandemics/disease outbreaks in district crisis response plans. Districts are encouraged to check that their crisis response plans include planning for these types of events, and that these plans are updated.
The following steps can be taken to prepare for the prevention and response to an outbreak:
- Review important links for updated guidance.
- Practice good hygiene. Wash hands frequently, ideally with soap and warm water for 20 seconds. If soap and water is not available, use 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. Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects or surfaces.
- Train nurses and staff members to watch for signs and symptoms of illness, which are similar to those of lower respiratory illness. Students or staff members who exhibit these signs should be sent home immediately.
- Create an absentee and sick leave policy for students and staff requiring the ill to stay home. Distribute policy to parents.
- Prepare for possible vaccine distribution within schools. Once the vaccine is available, vaccinations will be voluntary, but may be targeted at school-aged children.
- Update district crisis response plans. Districts are required by law to have current crisis response plans in place. Visit the School Safety and Emergency Management webpage for more information.
State of Alaska Resources
- 2019 Novel Coronavirus Flyer (DHSS)
- Influenza Information from the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS): http://dhss.alaska.gov/dph/Epi/id/Pages/influenza/fluinfo.aspx
- Alaska Weekly Flu Snapshot Report: http://dhss.alaska.gov/dph/Epi/id/SiteAssets/Pages/influenza/trends/Snapshot.pdf
- 2017 AK School Emergency Operations Plan Guidebook and Template: https://ready.alaska.gov/Plans/schools
- Infectious Disease Management: Guidelines for Alaska Schools (DHSS): http://dhss.alaska.gov/dph/wcfh/Documents/school/assets/InfectiousDiseaseManagementGuidelinesForAlaskaSchools.pdf
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): Influenza (Flu)
- CDC Information for Schools & Childcare Providers
Preparing for and Responding to Emergency School Closures
Given the recurrent nature of pandemics/disease outbreaks, districts also should prepare a plan for when they would close schools and how to educate students when schools are closed. If a school is closed, DEED will expect the district to submit an education plan.
In the event of emergency school closures, districts are required to notify the department in writing within 24 hours and submit a modified school calendar as soon as possible. Districts are provided several options for substituting closure days; however, the commissioner will decide whether to approve all, some, or none of the days requested. For more information regarding the regulations surrounding emergency school closures, please review the links below.
Todd Brocious (907) 465-2887
School Health and Safety Education Administrator II