Fiona Murphy, Editor-in-Chief
March 10th, 2020
The Northern Humboldt Union High School District is prepared for COVID-19. With the efforts of Nurse Johnny Kell and other district officials, the district started preparing before urging from the Department of Health and Human Services. After hearing on the radio about the first confirmed case in Humboldt, Kell started creating a working pandemic plan.
“We could not find a pandemic plan in our safety plan,” Kell explained. “[Not] surprised we can find something for an event that happens every 100 years.”
The quick response of Kell led to the district ordering disinfectants before the rush and subsequent shortage of resources. Nohum is installing foaming sanitizer for students to “foam in” and “foam out” of classes, like hospitals. Kell noted that this does not replace hand washing, but bolsters it.
With the lack of clear data from the county and hospitals, the schools are working to provide student absence data to the county. This could help create a better picture of the number sick students because the symptoms of COVID-19 do not always lead to hospitalization, especially in teenagers.
Kell urged better communication, especially from the county department of health. The district has hit roadblocks in getting information from the county, including receiving a mailed letter.
The district is also helping other local schools by sharing their plans and information as quickly as possible.
“In a moment like this, sharing with our community […] is how we help one another,” Kell said.
The plans Nohum is sharing include contingencies if schools end up closing. Currently, a school will close under the advice of the health department if there is a case of COVID-19 at that school. If one school in a district has a case, other district schools do not have to close.
The district is also working to curb impact if schools do close. They are looking into keeping food programs and childcare open to the students. The current infectivity of COVID-19 calls for reduction of large gatherings, not all gatherings. Keeping the cafeteria open is much less dangerous than having 1000 students on campus. The main goal is to keep the number of infected people under the capacity of local hospitals.
Overall, Kell urged calm and communications.
“The more we know the more rational decisions [we can make],” Kell said. “It’s not the zombie apocalypse we are talking about.”