We understand that parents, guardians, and staff have concerns about the current recommendations that school districts in Kittitas County are implementing regarding 2019 Novel Coronavirus disease (COVID-19). Kittitas County Public Health Department and our school districts are working closely together to make science-based – and not fear-based – decisions.
We’ve heard your questions and we have some answers.
A staff person at a school was exposed to COVID-19, and I was exposed to that person. Doesn’t that put me at risk?
You are not considered at risk. Neither are the students who may have been in contact with the staff person.
If you were at risk, Kittitas County Public Health Department (KCPHD) would ask you to self-quarantine and monitor yourself for symptoms. Because the staff person was asymptomatic and was only potentially exposed to COVID-19, you’re risk of contracting the virus from that person is very low. Community spread of this virus means that your risk of contracting the virus from an asymptomatic coworker is just as low as contracting it from any other place in the community.
The school is not separating our students to at least 6 feet like KCPHD is recommending! Why are they not following your social distancing recommendations?
Because they don’t need to. That would be impossible, and it’s unnecessary in the classroom.
Social distancing is an intervention needed to avoid contracting COVID-19. We want people to avoid non-essential activities and non-essential contact with others. But school is an essential activity and we do not have any people with confirmed COVID-19 in our schools at this time.
This situation is constantly evolving and we may have different recommendations in the future. But today – school doesn’t need to change.
Other schools are closing! Why aren’t you canceling school in Kittitas County?
We take school cancelation seriously, and so do our district Superintendents, because there are significant consequences to a restriction of that nature.
Schools are currently the safest place for students to be. Schools are a controlled environment and when we send children home, such as during school closures, we cannot control the environment which they interact in. There are systems and protocols in place to help prevent the spread of disease with the schools. Schools follow standard cleaning procedures that include daily disinfection of high touch surfaces and objects such as bathrooms, desks, doorknobs, phones, et cetera.
Aren’t the consequences of COVID-19 enough to outweigh any other consequence?
You can’t cancel life – at least not yet. COVID-19 is not affecting youth like it is older adults and vulnerable populations. When we close schools we have to think about: how will parents work and make money if they don’t have childcare, how will students eat if their family cannot afford lunch, where are kids going to go if they’re not in school and what kind of exposure will happen there?
Isn’t it better to be safe than sorry?
Of course it is, and that’s the public health motto. But canceling schools in Kittitas County would be premature at this time. Scientific data shows that canceling school today would not prevent exposure to COVID-19, it would only prolong that for the future. We want to decrease the peak of this disease, not just delay it. If we close today when there’s no known contact, we’ll just have to close again later when there is.
KCPHD, your Superintendents, and our partners need your help reducing the panic and misinformation in our community – Fear is not going to help us fight COVID-19, but information will. If you have concerns, go to https://www.doh.wa.gov/Emergencies/Coronavirus, or call our EOC for more information at 509-933-8315.
Concern or question?
The Washington State Department of Health has established a hotline with a live person to address questions from the public. If you have questions about what is happening in Washington state, how the virus is spread, and what to do if you have symptoms, please call the WSDOH hotline at 1-800-525-0127 and press # then press 2. You will be connected to a live person. This hotline is open from 6:00 am until 10:00 pm and is available in English and Spanish.