LocationAlhambra , CA
Concerned parents and family members sat in the San Gabriel High School auditorium on Thursday night, listening to presentations on the coronavirus from the Los Angeles County’s Department of Public Health and Office of Education. Alhambra Unified School District and Garvey School District hosted the meeting.
AUSD has been fielding questions from concerned parents about safety, prevention and planning. The county addressed these concerns and took questions from the audience at the end of the presentation. AUSD estimates 100 people were in attendance and simultaneous translations were available in Mandarin, Cantonese, Vietnamese and Spanish.
Thursday’s meeting was hosted by AUSD Superintendent Denise R. Jaramillo and Garvey Superintendent Anita Chu. Both districts emphasized they are practicing sanitizing routines at schools throughout the day on “high-touch points” like doorknobs or desks, encouraging students to wash their hands multiple times daily and providing hand sanitizer in classrooms that don’t have running water.
Nods of approval were seen in the audience when AUSD said many teachers of elementary grade classes are lining all pupils up to wash hands before and after activities where students might touch many objects or eat food including recess or lunch.
The bulk of the presentation of coronavirus facts was made by Dr. Dawn Terashita, Associate Director of Acute Communicable Disease Control Program at the L.A. County Department of Public Health. She also said the coronavirus is officially named by the World Health Organization: COVID-19, for coronavirus discovered in 2019.
Dr. Robert Gilchick followed with what the department is doing to work with public schools and their administrators, and answered the questions he most receives from parents and schools. Gilchick is the Child and Adolescent Health Section Chief of the Maternal, Child and Adolescent Health Division at the L.A. County Department of Public Health.
Other officials who participated were Noel Bazini-Barakat, LACDPH San Gabriel Valley Regional Health Officer; Arturo Valdez, LACOE Deputy Superintendent; and Susan Chaides, LACOE Consultant, Community Health&Safe Schools.
Gilchick ran through all the scenarios of exposure threat, and explained why parents should be reassured that the U.S. screening and quarantine processes are working.
“The decisions do not need to be made by the schools. They’re being made at the point of entry [to the United States] by health professionals,” says Gilchick.
He encouraged schools or administrators to continue to call him if there is any concerns or needs for clarity.
For perspective, Gilchick offered some flu statistics, including roughly 20,000 flu deaths this flu season. He said he hoped everyone had gotten flu shots and there was some laughter throughout the audience.
Terashita says that as of right now, there is no vaccine and no treatment. They are still being developed. She said there is no magic cure; any pills or remedies claiming to cure the coronavirus are false and not approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
Terashita said a “confirmed” case is a person who has symptoms of COVID-19 and has tested positive for COVID-19, confirmed by the Centers for Disease Control. The CDC is the only one with the test. Rumors that one can get tested and confirmed at their local medical clinic are false.
There are still no cases of coronavirus in the San Gabriel Valley. The lone case in Los Angeles County is the traveler who presented themselves to authorities upon arrival at LAX on Jan. 23 and was taken for treatment immediately. No county residents have been exposed to the virus.
In the U.S., there are 15 confirmed cases. It is still not spreading throughout the San Gabriel Valley.
The latest case is among the evacuees who were on a State Department-chartered flight from China, now under quarantine at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas. Case numbers 13 and 14 were also found in quarantine, in San Diego County at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar.
The U.S. confirmed COVID-19 cases are: one in Wisconsin, one in Washington, a husband and wife in Illinois, one in Massachusetts and one in Arizona. The other California cases are: one in Orange County, two in Santa Clara County, and a husband and wife in San Benito County.
If there are students who are practicing the self-quarantine, or what LACDPH and LACOE are calling “social distancing,” the school districts have ways for them to learn online or do independent study and are excusing the absences. The districts have been checking the rosters to see which students have been absent since winter break and checking in with the families to see if there is any information they need or if there has been any travel.
Terashita, like other health professionals, doesn’t recommend masks. She said they are not properly sanitized, and when worn over a long period of time can make you sick because they begin to trap and grow infection-causing dirt and bacteria.
Wash your hands.
The meeting ended with thoughts from several administrators saying it is important that parents and administrators teach children not to discriminate, to stand with others in the community by continuing to go to restaurants and grocery shopping, and to treat others how they would want to be treated.
“We will see you on the other side of this scare and we will all be better and smarter for it,” AUSD Superintendent Denise Jaramillo closed out the meeting.
The meeting was filmed by LACOE and will be posted by the districts early next week.
Visit AUSD’s coronavirus information page.
Visit Garvey School District’s coronavirus information page.
Our previous reporting:
For more information from the Alhambra Source, go to our Stay Healthy page.