Dear Woodstock Academy Parents, Students, Faculty, and Staff,
We write to offer an update on how The Woodstock Academy is dealing with the recent coronavirus outbreak around the world and to assure you that we are doing all we can to ensure the health of our community. To be clear, no Woodstock Academy students or community members have shown symptoms of or been diagnosed with coronavirus.
More About Coronavirus
The coronavirus originated in the city of Wuhan, China and has been a growing concern in a number of other cities around the world. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) believes that the virus initially was linked to a large seafood and animal market suggesting an animal-to-person spread. However, the growing number of cases in Wuhan that did not have exposure to the animal market suggests that there is a person-to-person transmission thought to be spread through respiratory droplets.
Coronaviruses are quite common, but the latest strain-the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) can cause severe respiratory illness. The common symptoms of the coronavirus are fever, cough, and shortness of breath which may appear 2 to 14 days after exposure. It is important to note that while news reports and media have reported about 165 potential cases being evaluated and tested in the United States, most of these patients are testing negative for the coronavirus. The United States has had five confirmed cases in which patients had recently traveled to Wuhan or the surrounding area.
As we learn more about the coronavirus and lab results come back, we are hearing that many patients are testing positive for influenza. Seasonal influenza continues to be a concern for our community, and many communities across the country, as there are higher than average seasonal flu cases this year in many states. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that every state has seen seasonal flu, the Type A and Type B viruses which routinely spread in people and are responsible for the seasonal flu epidemic each year. We have been made aware of a few students this week that have tested positive for seasonal influenza (not coronavirus).
As with previous years, it is important that we all continue to be vigilant in preventing the flu virus and educating our community on how it can be treated if someone is diagnosed. Now, in addition to influenza we also need to be educated and aware of the coronavirus. The CDC has stated, “While we consider this a very serious public health threat, based on current information, the immediate health risk from 2019-nCoV (coronavirus) to the general American public is considered low at this time.”
In order to ensure we at The Woodstock Academy are fully informed, we have followed developments in various media, professional journals, and health organizations. We have closely monitored the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and World Health Organization websites, and are in regular communication with our Medical Director, Dr. Kristen Xeller, who also is continuing to monitor the situation. We are also being advised with information from the Connecticut Association of Independent Schools (CAIS) and the Northeast District Department of Health has stated that they would reach out with any evolving information. In short, we are doing all we can to stay informed, to follow the advice of medical experts, and to take steps to keep our campus healthy.
At this time, most agency guidelines are commonsensical- e.g. exercising basic prevention protocols appropriate to any flu-like virus such as proper handwashing, keeping distance from anyone noticeably ill, covering nose and mouth with a tissue when coughing/sneezing, not touching potentially infected surfaces and then touching your hands to your face, nose or mouth, and not sharing drinks, food, water bottles, utensils, etc. Extra cleaning of public and private spaces will be important. Our health services department asks that if your son/daughter is ill with a respiratory illness, causing fever, malaise, body aches, headache, cough, and runny nose that you please keep them home from school until they can be seen by a primary care provider that can assess and clear them to return to school and that all students should only return to school after they have been fever-free without any medication for 24 hours and tolerating oral foods and fluids well. It is important to note that not everyone with the flu will have a fever so please use your judgment and contact your medical provider for questions and further consultation. We also strongly recommend a yearly flu vaccine as the first and most important step in protecting against the flu virus. It is not too late to receive the flu vaccine if you have not already done so.
In addition to influenza concerns, here are a few other steps that we have currently taken or will be taking to help the campus remain healthy:
- The CDC has recently elevated the travel warning for China to a Warning Level 3-Avoid Nonessential Travel. With this in mind, we have updated expectations for visitors to The Woodstock Academy and our residential student body. We would ask that any visitors to campus that have recently spent time in China not come to The Academy until after a minimum of a fourteen-day period and that all visitors are symptom-free.
- Out of an abundance of caution, the school administration is making a number of recommendations for the Spring Break scheduled vacation in April. It is recommended that Woodstock Academy students not travel to areas affected by the virus. While there are currently travel warnings for China, this may change, and other countries or regions may be affected as well. Alternative plans to non-affected areas are encouraged for April. Residential staff will assist students and families who need help in making alternative, local plans.
- We have met with our boarding student community directly to discuss the outbreak of the coronavirus, making sure they have accurate information regarding the virus and also reminding them of the resources available to them here given concerns they may have for family and friends at home.
- Our maintenance and housekeeping staff have been updated so they can pay special attention to cleaning public spaces, including cleaning bathrooms, common rooms, classrooms, and dining halls with cleansers and disinfectants designed to eradicate a wide variety of viruses.
We completely understand that this is a heightened concern for many Woodstock Academy students, parents, and families. This is a fluid, evolving situation; and we will continue to monitor reports and provide updates as necessary. We do not want to be reactionary or panicked, but be cautious, educated, and well prepared. For the general health of the entire school, and especially for the health of the sick student, please err on the side of keeping a sick student home and communicate all illness to the health office directly so that we can monitor and plan appropriately. Thank you for your support as we strive to keep our community healthy. Any health-related questions can be directed to Bobbie-Jo Saucier, Director of Health Services at (860) 928-6575 option 4 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Additional information about the coronavirus can be found at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/index.html. Influenza information can be found at https://www.cdc.gov/flu/index.htm.
Bobbie-Jo Saucier, RN, ATC, LAT
Director of Health Services
Associate Head of School