Message from school nurses: Please step up to help prevent spread of virus

Here's an example of what NOT to do -- soak up lovely Bay Area sunshine with friends and neighbors, tempting as it is.

A message from District nurses Carol Menz and Amy Jo Goldfarb was shared in a Tuesday, Mar. 31 email to the school community.

Dear PUSD Families and Staff,

We hope this email finds you and your family healthy, and adjusting to life on the homefront.

As the COVID-19 virus continues to spread throughout this country, we are fortunate that despite the rising numbers within Alameda County and the Bay Area in general, that our hospitals have not yet been entirely overwhelmed by a surge of patients as has happened within the New York City area. We have all seen these horrific images on television and heard about the incredibly sad stories of loved ones lost.  It is very hard to take in all the grim statistics. Make sure you are taking care of yourselves by getting enough sleep, some exercise, time outdoors, drinking plenty of water and eating as nutritiously as you can. Maybe even try this recommended UCLA guided meditation or a meditation app like Calm or Headspace for yourself and your kids. 

While our government, health officials and healthcare providers continue to prepare for the potential of this dire scenario playing out in our area, we cannot stress enough the importance of our community members stepping up and doing their part to prevent the spread of this terribly scary and easily transmissible disease. While clearly the vast majority of our citizens are taking this situation seriously, we are still hearing about groups of students and parents hanging out together, without practicing social distancing. With each additional friend your child spends time with in close contact, the risk to your child, and in turn your family, is increased significantly. Your child’s friend is at risk of contracting the virus from not only everyone else in their family, but everyone that that child’s family has been in contact with from work, friends, shopping, etc. While the vast majority (80%) of cases of COVID-19 are mild, with mild flu-like symptoms, statistics are showing that younger people in the US are falling significantly ill and having to be hospitalized. According to the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report of 2/12 – 3/16, 55% of hospitalizations were in adults younger than 65 years of age.

Increasing the spread of COVID-19 in the community puts not only ourselves and our families at risk, it increases the risk to our first-responders, healthcare providers, and other essential workers, as well as their families. While we know this is a challenging time, and we don’t wish to scare them, it is imperative that we have these difficult conversations with our kids and explain to them the importance of social distancing. Heralding our kids as heroes, for staying home, is a great start.

As the virus has continued to spread and testing has become a little less scarce, teachers and school administrators have begun hearing from students about family members being tested and testing positive for the virus. To date PUSD has not been notified by health officials of any known positive cases within our school community. Since schools have been closed for over two weeks now, it is not likely that a student or staff member testing positive at this point will pose a risk to others in the school community, and as such we do not anticipate such notices going forward at this time. The Alameda County Health Department is currently doing contact tracing and is notifying people deemed to be at significant risk from a person who has tested positive. As the presumed rates of infection in the community rise, however, it is less likely that contact tracing will continue to be done, and as such we would anticipate less, not more notification going forward. Please keep in mind that all of this will likely change again as we eventually pass the peak of the disease, and schools and businesses begin to reopen.

The District will continue to work closely with the Alameda County Office of Education and the Alameda County Public Health Department, and will follow any guidance/directives regarding notification to individuals/groups impacted, if and when they are received. 

Please understand, however, that the lack of notification of positive cases, either from the Alameda County Public Health Department or PUSD, absolutely does not mean that the risk of transmission in our community is low. While the risk to the long-term health of individuals within Alameda County remains low with this virus, the risk to certain sectors of the population (ie: older residents, particularly those with underlying health conditions, immunocompromised individuals, healthcare providers) remains quite high. And testing, while improved, is still not readily available on an outpatient basis. Many families with sick family members are being instructed to assume they have COVID-19, without testing, and to isolate at home (unless they have shortness of breath, in which case they should contact their healthcare providers or 911, if severe, immediately).

The idea underlying the strategy of social isolation lies on the assumption that anyone with whom we come in contact can be carrying the virus. New data cited by Dr. Robert Redfield, the Director of the CDC, shows high rates of transmission by people who are infected but don’t know it yet. According to Dr. Redfield, an infected person can be contagious for 48 hours before developing symptoms, if they get them at all. Since it is known that a percentage of the population can be asymptomatic, we must therefore assume that any of us could be carrying the virus and can be contagious at any point in time. Maintaining a minimum distance of 6 feet from those with whom we don’t reside, therefore, whenever possible, can reduce the risk of transmission unknowingly. This will help keep us all safer. 

We look forward to the day when not only will there be a vaccine to novel coronavirus-19, but also an antibody test so that those who have already been exposed and are immune will be aware of their status. In the meantime, we must all assume we are susceptible and follow the prevention measures outlined by our local, state and national governments and health agencies by staying at home, practicing social distancing, frequent handwashing, and covering coughs and sneezes.

If anyone in your household or family is experiencing illness, particularly fever, sore throat, dry cough or shortness of breath, please isolate them and contact your healthcare provider for guidance. But it’s very important to call first, before going into the office.

The CDC has very helpful information on how to prevent COVID-19 and what to do if you are ill.

The district nurses, Carol Menz and Amy Jo Goldfarb, are also available by phone at 510-594-2751 or email at nurses@piedmont.k12.ca.us to address questions or concerns.

We wish your families continued health, safety and strength during these challenging times.

Carol Menz, MSN, RN

Amy Jo Goldfarb BSN, RN

One thought on “Message from school nurses: Please step up to help prevent spread of virus

  1. We really appreciate this clear, concrete information – thank you Carol & Amy Jo. We also really appreciate the shift in messaging that you and the City are both taking, from ‘assume everyone is a danger to you’, to ‘assume you’ve been exposed and act to protect all of us.’ It’s a subtle distinction, perhaps, but we will come through this by taking care of each other. From a distance!

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