Update on COVID-19 Preparedness: March 5, 2020

Dear CPS Community:

I am writing to provide an update on our efforts to be prepared and provide timely and accurate information to students, staff and families in light of the global COVID-19 (Coronavirus) outbreak. As stated in this week’s Public Health Update from CPS and the Cambridge Public Health Department (CPHD), we will continue to follow the most up-to-date guidance and procedures from public health officials, assessing conditions within schools on an ongoing basis.

We have launched a web page with the latest details on our preparedness activities and response to this evolving situation.

New Guidance from the CDC:

  • 14-Day self-quarantine for travelers returning from China and Iran, Italy, South Korea
  • Travelers returning from Japan: Consider ways to limit your contact with others and self-monitor for symptoms

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has updated its self-quarantine guidance to include not only China, but also Iran, Italy, and South Korea. This means that individuals who have traveled to any of these countries should self-quarantine for 14 days upon their return to the U.S. and notify their doctor if they become sick. The CDC also recommends that travelers returning from Japan limit contact with others and self-monitor for symptoms.

Please note that although we are not aware of any members of the CPS community having recently traveled to China, we do know that some individuals have recently traveled to the other countries of concern. We want to thank those individuals for reporting the information to their Principal or school nurse.

From what we have learned to date, staff members or students reporting symptoms have been assessed as unlikely to have COVID-19 (symptoms have appeared consistent with other viruses such as influenza or the common cold). The situation is evolving and we encourage anyone with any question about whether they should be tested for COVID-19 to err on the side of safety by seeking medical advice.

To summarize the current guidance from the CDC, as of March 5:

  • If you have returned from any of the following four countries of concern (China, Iran, Italy, and South Korea): You must self-quarantine for 14 days, regardless of how you feel.
  • If you have returned from Japan: Consider ways to limit your contact with others and self-monitor for symptoms.
  • If you are under self-quarantine and become sick: You should seek medical care. Call your doctor’s office or the hospital so that they can prepare for your arrival and help prevent exposure to other patients.
  • If you are sick: Stay home until you feel better, and contact your doctor if you are concerned you may have been exposed to this illness.

Information Regarding Self-Quarantines
We have started to receive scattered reports of individuals who have been advised to self-quarantine as a precaution, but who were not recommended for testing. If an individual has self-quarantined in the absence of actual diagnosis, we will respect their privacy and confidentiality. Individual instances will continue to be closely reviewed, but our policy will be to inform the community of actual, confirmed cases of COVID-19 only. No such cases have been confirmed at this time.

Please do your best to share factual information, and avoid speculation and rumor. The CDC has also issued guidance aimed at reducing stigma and bias in discussions of this illness. During a time of anxiety and fear, it is especially important to offer one another respect, support and compassion.

Decision-Making Around School Closures

We have received many questions about the potential need for school closures. Because Cambridge is such an interconnected city with children in the same family going to multiple schools, riding buses that serve more than one school, and attending after school programs in different locations than their school, decisions about school closures will be very complex.

CPS and CPHD will make decisions about closures on a case-by-case basis. We recognize that closing a school has repercussions for the economic wellbeing of families as well as children’s learning, safety and nutritional needs. These concerns will be taken into consideration in any decision-making process. If directives from public health officials change, we will notify you as soon as possible.

The CPS Administrative Council (Principals, Curriculum leaders and District Administrative managers) is evaluating resources and timelines required to support student learning at home including ways to address language needs and gaps in technology access.

Continued Preparedness Planning

We are actively working on plans and contingency plans, and encourage members of the community to contribute to these efforts by making your own plans for coping with the potential of disruption to schools and community. We will do our best to support and inform the community -- and we are all going to need to pull together in this spirit.

We will continue to send you health updates, update our preparedness site, and share the latest via social media. We also welcome your questions -- including the opportunity to dispel or confirm rumors in the community. Please email these concerns so that we can carefully monitor these inquiries. While we may not be able to answer every message individually, your messages are informing our updates.

As always, medical questions and concerns should be brought to a school nurse, your own doctor, or the Massachusetts Department of Public Health at 617.983.6800.

Sincerely,

Kenneth N. Salim, Superintendent

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