The world’s most timely virus — the novel virus COVID-19, otherwise known as the coronavirus — has not yet seen a confirmed or presumed case in Cedar County yet. But with three confirmed cases located just around an hour away in Greene County as of press time Tuesday, March 17, Cedar County-related schools, hospitals and organizations are taking precautionary measures to keep the virus from impacting the community.
Stockton R-1 Superintendent Shannon Snow told the Cedar County Republican via email as of Friday, March 13, the district was preparing for a school closure “just in case.”
Over the weekend, however, the situation progressed. On Monday, March 16, the Cedar County Health Department issued new guidance in regard to the COVID-19 outbreak.
“It is their recommendation that we cancel school and suspend all school related activities,” Snow said in a letter to parents of students in the district.
In compliance with the health department’s recommendations, R-I is set to close on Wednesday, March 18, through Friday, March 27, according to the letter.
On Friday, March 27, the situation will be re-evaluated to determine if it is safe for the community to send students back to school, Snow said.
The closure effects all extra-curricular and co-curricular activities and practices.
“We understand that each family will have unique hardships caused by this school closure,” Snow said. “There is no higher priority for the Stockton R-1 School District than the safety of our students, staff and community.”
Currently, R-I anticipates making enrichment activities available to students during the time school is out of session. The district is also working on plans to offer meals for pick up or possible delivery for students in need.
“We will also send information out on our auto caller,” Snow said. “Please do not take this as a sign that school is out for the year. If your student is going to work at home, they may need their supplies and books. It will also give us a great opportunity to sanitize desks and lockers. We are not sending students home for the school year.”
Snow said the district will continue to work with local health officials make the best decisions possible students and staff.
“These are unprecedented times, and we would ask for your support as we navigate this crisis together. We would ask you to be vigilant in your observations of social distancing recommendations, crowd size limitations and personal hygiene to ensure this closing does the greatest amount of good in slowing the progress of COVID-19,” Snow said in the letter.
Students should not treat this isolation as a vacation, she added; rather, they should take it seriously and stay at home to prevent the spread of disease.
In an email to the Cedar County Republican on Friday, March 13, Snow said the district is practicing good hygiene and the custodial department has been in “hyper cleaning mode for a while during flu season.”
“We are even wiping down bus seats to prevent germ spreading,” Snow said on Friday. “We also have tried to be proactive in evaluating all of our practices, especially in the cafeteria, and have made a few changes to help.”
She said custodians had been doing a flu-cleaning protocol for several weeks. They clean surfaces such as tables, desks, chairs, doorknobs and more on a daily basis.
“We have also some of the antiseptic foggers that can be used in classrooms,” Snow described on Friday. “We have taken a look at cafeteria procedures and have tweaked a few things to avoid touching or spreading germs. Teachers and the nurse have really been emphasizing proper and frequent hand washing with students.”
Students can be assured toilet paper is ordered “a year at a time,” at R-1, so the district still is well-stocked on toilet paper.
The focus on health and cleanliness stems from concern. Snow said she was aware parents were concerned, and because of that, parents must do what is best for their family.
Cedar County Cares
With toilet paper flying off the shelves at Stockton’s Dollar General, and other area stores seeing toilet paper, baby wipes and canned food being sold out at fast rates, a group was created on Facebook called “Cedar County Cares” on Saturday, March 14.
The group was made to help others in our community, according to its page information, because members of the community may “be in need of something at some point.”
There is no selling of any item or service in this group. If someone posts a “need,” they may offer your service or item for free.
Additionally, there is not to be any fundraising of any kind in the group. It is up to each individual to research on helping or accepting help from anyone.
“Please only ask for what you truly need, and please only give with an open heart expecting nothing in return,” the group says.
There is currently no vaccine to prevent Covid-19. The best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to this virus. However, as a reminder, the CDC recommends everyday preventive actions to help prevent the spread of respiratory diseases, including hand washing, using soap, water or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer; avoid close contact with people who are sick; avoid touching the face; cover coughs and sneezes with tissues; and disinfect frequently-touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
Symptoms of Covid-19 may include the following (after 2-14 days of exposure): fever, cough and shortness of breath.
According to the Journal of the American Medical Association, as many as 98% of Covid-19 patients have a fever, between 76% and 82% have a dry cough and 11% to 44% report exhaustion and fatigue.
For the latest information, visit CDC website at cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/.
State of emergency
Outside of Cedar County’s realm, Governor Mike Parson signed an executive order declaring a state of emergency on Friday, March 13, in response to the coronavirus. According to a news release, this action allows Parson’s administration to access critical resources needed to address the evolving situation.
“The purpose of today’s executive order is to allow more flexibility in utilizing our resources and deploying them around the state where they are most appropriate,” the release said.
In addition to declaring a state of emergency, the Parson administration also is taking steps to expand their Covid-19 testing capabilities by coordinating with the University of Missouri and Washington University labs.
“This should increase our testing capabilities by thousands in Missouri, and we greatly appreciate these universities for offering their assistance in addressing Covid-19,” the release said.
The Parson administration is in daily communication with the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, who serve as the lead agency for this issue in Missouri, according to the release.