Montco superintendents examine coronavirus preparations for schools

KYW Staff
March 04, 2020 - 5:16 pm
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PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — As the coronavirus continues to spread, so do fears of getting it. 

Anyone with a compromised immune system — usually children and elderly — will have a harder time with the so-called COVID-19 if they are exposed to it.

School superintendents from across Montgomery County met on Wednesday to discuss what could be done if any cases do arise. Although the meeting was closed to the public and to reporters, John George, head of the Montgomery County Intermediate Unit, told KYW Newsradio that the discussion remains focused on prevention.

“Obviously buildings are cleaned every night. Perhaps we need to do that more often,” questioned George. 

The cleaning includes school buses, as frequently as possible. Schools are also committed to teaching children the proper ways to sneeze and cough to avoid spreading germs.

There are no confirmed cases in Montgomery County, but school districts are making preparations if a school had to close for an extended period of time.

“Virtual courses are designed to be semester long, not necessarily be 48 to 72 hours long. So there are some things that have to be looked at as to how that technology could be applied,” George said. “We do have a strong infrastructure, but we don’t have a guaranteed infrastructure that’s going to address the problem for 100 percent of the children.”

Districts are also required to have 180 days in a school year, and there’s concern over whether that would be upheld. That decision is up to the Pennsylvania Department of Education, and George hopes they’ll receive guidance soon.

Pennsylvania health officials said they already have a plan in place to combat the spread of the novel coronavirus across the state. 

Community and compromised immune systems

Dr. Harvey Rubin, an infectious disease specialist at the University of Pennsylvania, said children and elderly are at risk, as well as anyone else with a compromised immune system.

“They have a harder time with almost all infectious diseases,” like the flu, he added.

He said we all should be doing our part to look after the most vulnerable victims, but the term “compromised immune system” is a pretty broad definition.

“It's people who are on certain medicines. It's people who have certain diseases. It's even people who are more frail. So people who have compromised immune systems will be more susceptible to this disease,” he explained.

Rubin said the community as a whole has a responsibility in dealing with this outbreak.

“The community should know who is in your apartment building. You know, you haven't seen Mrs. So-and-so for a few days, maybe give her a knock on the door to see if she is OK,” he advised.

To avoid getting — and spreading — the virus, Rubin offered some common sense: Wash your hands often, keep your hands off of your face, and try to stay away from people who are coughing or sneezing. 

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KYW Newsradio’s Jim Melwert and John McDevitt contributed to this report.