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School officials make plans in case of local coronavirus

While no cases have been reported yet of COVID-19, school officials are making plans in the event of a reported case here.

Earlier this week, State Superintendent Dr. Eric Mackey said school officials were working to be prepared.

Though the state has not had any cases reported, all states bordering Alabama, except Mississippi, have reported cases of the disease.

In all 40 states have reported positive or presumptive cases.

Mackey said Tuesday that school systems should notify the state department of education as well as its local health department of any students, faculty or staff members who have gone overseas, to places in the U.S., that are considered hotspots for the illness or if they are showing flu-like symptoms.

Mackey also told local school superintendents to prohibit overseas travel.

“It’s not necessarily just about catching the virus overseas, but we are seeking a rash of confinements overseas and quarantines,” Mackey explained. “We feel like it’s just not a good situation for our students to be traveling overseas when there’s such a heightened alert.”

Andalusia City Schools Superintendent Ted Watson said the information given to school officials by the state department is that they are to notify the state if any cases of COVID-19 are confirmed or suspected in any student or staff member.

“ADPH will come in and they will check it out in 24 hours and they will make the determination about potentially closing the school,” he said. “If we have a significant school closure, we will have to make up the hours.”

Covington County Schools Superintendent Shannon Driver said they are following the state department’s instructions.

“The state department has been sending out daily updates since January,” he said. “We are in th’e middle of flu season, and we are already taking steps – hand washing, cleaning, proper etiquette for handshakes and sneezing and coughing.”

Opp City Schools Superintendent Michael Smithart explained their stance.

“What we are doing right now is trying to stay informed and vigilant concerning the latest reported cases,” he said.  “We have plans in place to address pandemic situations.  In the event there is a confirmed case, we would take immediate steps to mitigate any spread throughout our schools.  In the meantime, we will continue our preventative practices; such as, encouraging students to wash their hands frequently, cough or sneeze into the elbow, and especially encourage parents of students exhibiting symptoms to keep them and their siblings home until they are fever free for a minimum of 24 hours without medication.  We have not placed any restrictions on travel within the state, but we will continue to monitor the situation and make any decisions we feel necessary to insure the well-being of our students.”