Public Health supports school return
August 6, 2020
WHITMAN COUNTY—Public Health is supportive of county schools resuming in-class instruction, as long as the viral load continues to remain low, according to Public Health Director Troy Henderson.
“I think the superintendents have a pretty good handle on what they are doing,” said Henderson.
Henderson does not hold the same concern about returning to school on the local level as there is for Washington State University.
“The folks who attend the public schools and work at the schools are already here in our communities,” he said. This is unlike WSU which draws people from far beyond the county, bringing with them more virus than already in place.
Public Health is in favor of returning to the classroom as long as the viral load stays low and schools are within CDC and state guidelines. Despite the recent rise in cases—the county is almost to the 100 positive case mark—the county is still about half below the statewide average of daily new cases. Henderson is okay with five or six new cases a day, but if there was a jump to 20-30 new cases a day, he would look at taking action.
Given the nature of Whitman County communities, if one school or town were to see a spike, action would be taken on a local level instead of county-wide.
The key to successful school re-openings is for parents to not send sick children to school, Henderson said. While it has long been a policy of schools to send home sick children, it is now “critical” to keep them home. As COVID-19 has so many symptoms, Henderson urged to keep students home for any sickness.
Guidance for students includes wearing cloth face coverings, social distancing, screening, hand washing and disinfecting.
While will likely lead to “noticeable” changes at schools, Henderson said the superintendents have good plans in place for students back in the class.
At this time, school re-opening has been left to local authority. However, Henderson noted, if statewide it looked like the virus was getting out of hand, the governor could take action. He did not foresee that as the numbers statewide have been coming down for new cases.