As cases of the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) spread throughout the world, and into our communities, how are you and your students doing? How are you feeling?
As this virus spreads, it seems to affect mostly older people and those who have compromised immune systems. But even young students have older grandparents or know community members who may have compromised immune systems.
Access to health and doctors is one area where our resources can be inequitable. Not every person in the U.S. has access to excellent health care.
School district leadership teams and school administrators will have official messages to share.
Depending on the age of the students with whom you work with, you may want to think of how to convey a couple of ideas in an age-appropriate way to your students because they know you and would trust your message.
Think of what you can do or say to help alleviate your student's fears. Most people don't die from this, but some can become very ill and may die.
Are you in a school or district that encourages such conversations with students? Some administrators take the view that it's up to a child's parents to tell them what they want them to know. Unfortunately, if the parents don't speak English well, or don't follow the news, or work several jobs, so they are not home - the conversation may not take place.
Students may be getting their information - and misinformation from other students.
Federal officials warned that it might be necessary to close schools.
"It's not so much of a question of if this will happen anymore but rather more of a question of exactly when this will happen," Dr. Nancy Messonnier, Director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, said in a news briefing.
The CDC recommends common-sense precautions such as
Here is a serious question: has anyone who has written this guidance tried telling students, especially younger students, not to touch their faces or noses or put their fingers in their mouth after touching a surface? In my school's leadership meeting, the topic of students sharing food and lip balm came up. If you have any suggestions, please share them.
Some states have declared a State of Emergency, and some colleges and universities are closing for up to two weeks and holding online classes.
For schools that have opted to transition to online education, I've put together a free course. I want to invite you to share this resource with your colleagues as many of us are working to create an equitable online learning space for our students.
The problem is that not all students have internet access, so trying to hold online-school as South Korea is doing while schools are closed for two weeks, or Japan, where schools are closed for a month, may not work in some rural, suburban, and urban homes.
Some students depend on free and reduced meals provided by their schools. Some students receive a backpack of snacks to take home for the weekend. How will these students manage if schools are closed? In the summers, some schools offer free hot lunches, but with a potential virus, that may not be the best option.
Some students are homeless. Do we have a plan to meet their needs? Some shelters do not allow people to remain there during the day.
What else could you do? Could you plan or adjust the assignments? Or send home packets? The problem is that we don't know if/when the virus will spread in your community, and which schools will be affected. Some K-12 and Higher Education institutions in the United States are currently closing for two weeks or more. Graduations have been canceled as well.
How are we advocating for our Asian students?
Please be aware that there have been multiple instances of bullying of Asian students - not just students from China or Chinese students because the first instances of the transmission of this virus were in China. Still, there have been references to the Chinese virus and the Wuhan virus. Some of these students were born in the U.S. to parents who were born in the U.S. and may have never been to Asia. Students who are Japanese or Korean or Thai or Vietnamese are also being bullied and ostracized. You may have to have a conversation about racism in such assumptions with your students and staff.
National Public Radio reported,
"Thirteen-year-old Sara Aalgaard told us that since the outbreak, many middle-school classmates of hers have been targeting the small population of Asian Americans at her school in Middletown, Conn. "People call us 'corona,'" she said, or ask if they eat dogs. Rebecca Wen from North Brunswick, N.J., told us that her 9-year-old son reported that his 11-year-old classmate said: "You're Chinese, so you must have the coronavirus."
Other recommendations include avoiding crowded places such as parks, shopping malls, and religious services, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has asked companies who can do so to allow people to work from home and has suggested that those who can commute by walking or bicycling do so rather than using public transportation.
New York City has canceled in-person parent-teacher conferences scheduled for this week. The meetings will be held by phone or video chat instead.
As an indicator of the spread, one person In New York who had not traveled is considered the common denominator in as many as 37 cases. The person's spouse and children have the virus, and so does a neighbor who drove the ill person to the hospital, a friend of the spouse, and several others. Their entire neighborhood is currently under quarantine with the National Guard assigned to clean public spaces and deliver food within the quarantine zone.
Recommendations include making sure that your school has a plan in place, including a communication plan for administrators, staff, parents, students, and the community.
If a student develops symptoms including a high fever, a cough, and trouble breathing, take them to the nurse's office, and keep them separate from other students until they can be checked.
In many cases, by taking common-sense precautions, many of those who have the virus have recovered. In some countries, there are few cases, and most recover.
For now, the best suggestions include making plans, getting enough sleep, making sure that you and your students are sufficiently hydrated, and washing your hands frequently.
There is no need to panic yet - as we wait for more testing kits to become available and distributed widely, and look for a vaccine. We need to support each other in staying healthy and ensuring that we take care of ourselves, our families, our students, and our community by being aware and proactive.
Here are some links to articles that you may find to be helpful:
Yours in health and equity,