Northeast MS – Northeast Mississippi public schools were in the middle of spring break when the Department of Health (MDH) confirmed Mississippi’s first case of COVID-19, Wednesday evening, March 11.
MDH said a Forrest County (Hattiesburg) adult male had tested positive for the coronavirus after returning from a trip to Florida. Results are still to be confirmed by the CDC.
There have been no announcements indicating area schools would not resume classes when spring break ends.
NEMISS.NEWS contacted Northeast Mississippi school officials last week and got a mix of answers about their plans to cope with a potential coronavirus epidemic.
“Our board has a pandemic policy,” said Dr. Michelle Bivens, superintendent of Pontotoc City Schools. “We will review that on March 16th.
Officials in each school district in the state make the decisions about whether or not to close schools due to an epidemic, and are guided by a written policy issued by the Mississippi Department of Education.
The State of Mississippi has published a long (over 400 pages) and detailed document called the “Mississippi Pandemic Influenza Incident Annex.” Public school officials are supposed to consult the document in making decisions about how to cope with COVID-19. “Clear as mud” might be an appropriate subtitle to that government document. See link below.
As they wrestle with what to do, local public school officials, who work for local elected politicians, must also consider the reactions of parents to their decisions. Parents range from those who are concerned with how they would work at their jobs if their children were not in schools during the day, to those who fear sending their kids to school where they might be exposed to the illness.
Area school officials seem to be emphasizing cleaning school buildings in the hope that hygiene of the premises would be helpful.
Tupelo City School officials have hired the professional cleaning service Servpro to do heavy cleaning and disinfecting of its buildings during spring break.
Lance Evans, superintendent of the New Albany city schools, said his school district is using its own personnel for cleaning. “Our custodians have been instructed to clean with virucidal disinfectant cleaner and to use an industrial grade disinfectant to spray surfaces such as doors, door handles, and areas that are frequently touched, at least twice a day during the school day,” Evans said.
“Teachers,” said Evans, “have been advised to clean their classrooms and work spaces with disinfectant wipes.”
Evans said the New Albany schools were working on thorough cleaning before COVID-19 received so much publicity because the schools had a large number of influenza cases several weeks ago. He said absenteeism was up to “about 20 percent” during that flu outbreak, but it was not considered necessary to close the schools at that time.
Union County Assistant School Superintendent Windy Faulkner said, “We’ve been getting extra cleaning supplies and stressing the importance of sanitizing and cleaning.
According to the World Health Organization, which officially declared COVID-19 a “Pandemic” yesterday, the virus may survive on surfaces for a few hours or up to several days. Survival of the virus depends on the type of surface, temperature and humidity.
“On copper and steel it’s pretty typical, it’s pretty much about two hours,” said Dr. Robert Redfield, Director of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). “But I will say on other surfaces – paper and cardboard – it’s longer, and so we are looking at this.”
“Mississippi Pandemic Influenza Incident Annex” link: https://msdh.ms.gov/msdhsite/_static/resources/2944.pdf
MS first coronavirus case: https://www.nemiss.news/mississippi-reports-first-positive-coronavirus/Centers for Disease Control (CDC), coronavirus, Pandemic, World Health Organization (WHO)