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Information for members about coronavirus

An outbreak of a coronavirus, Covid-19 (2019-nCoV), was first identified in the city of Wuhan, China. It was confirmed to be a novel (new) virus on Jan. 7, 2020. Since then, there have been thousands of cases worldwide, with the majority of confirmed cases in mainland China.The number of cases of the virus continues to change rapidly day to day. See this dashboard for the latest statistics »

As this is a new virus, public health officials worldwide are still in the early days of their investigation and there are still many unknown variables on the virus’s method of transmission and its severity. See this FAQ from the Centers for Disease Control »

The UFT will be monitoring the outbreak and will continue to provide additional material to help members protect themselves.

Transmission

The virus is believed to have been transmitted from animals to humans as many of the initial cases were linked to a seafood and animal market in Wuhan city. There is now some evidence that the virus is spreading from person-to-person. According to CDC, spread from person-to-person mostly happens among close contacts (about six feet). Person-to-person spread is thought to occur mainly via respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes, like how influenza and other respiratory pathogens spread.

Symptoms

Symptoms among confirmed cases of infection include fever, cough, and shortness of breath. CDC also believes at this time that symptoms of 2019-nCoV may appear in as few as two days or as long as 14 days after exposure.

Prevention and treatments

There is currently no vaccine or specific treatment available beyond treating the symptoms of the infection. The best way to prevent infection is to avoid being exposed to this virus. You should take the same precautions that you would during the cold and flu season such as

  • Frequent handwashing
  • Getting the flu vaccine
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick
  • Staying home when you are sick and
  • Cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched objects and surfaces.

For educators

The US Department of Health and Human Services recently implemented temporary screening and quarantine rules for US citizens returning from China after 5 p.m. EST on Feb. 2, 2020.

  • Any U.S. citizen returning to the United States who has been in Hubei Province in the previous 14 days will be subject to up to 14 days of mandatory quarantine.
  • Any U.S. citizen returning to the United States who has been anywhere else in mainland China within the previous 14 days will undergo a health screening upon re-entry and will be subject to up to 14 days of monitored home quarantine.

Thus, the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) advises any staff or students returning from China after 5 p.m. EST on Feb. 2, 2020, NOT to report to work or school for up to 14 days from the date that they left China. UFT members under mandatory or home quarantines will not have their CAR days impacted.

Students and staff who left China before 5 p.m. EST Feb. 2, 2020, and who have no symptoms of illness, can return to school immediately. However, if they do develop symptoms within 14 days of their return from China, they should not report to school until they have been evaluated by a doctor.

The DOE is advising school staff to continue to follow standard procedures for students exhibiting respiratory symptoms and fever. That is to send any students with fever and respiratory symptoms home and exclude these students until their symptoms have resolved. While a student is waiting for pick up by a parent or guardian, the student should be sent to the school nurse or a designated adult for isolation away from the general school population. Students who appear seriously ill should be advised to seek additional medical evaluation.

Now is also a good time for schools to review their infection control policies and ensure that staff, students and parents are aware of them. This should include reminders to practice good and frequent handwashing hygiene, having a disinfection and cleaning schedule with the custodial staff, and to remind staff and students to stay home when they are sick.

For school nurses

If you are evaluating a patient with whom there is a concern for novel coronavirus infection based on their symptoms and a history of travel from Hubei Province, China within the last 14 days, school nurses should:

  • Practice standard precautions, contact precautions and airborne precautions during the examination. This should include donning personal protective equipment (PPE) such as an N95 respirator, nitrile gloves, disposable gowns and a face shield. Consider reviewing the infection control protocols developed during the H1N1 influenza outbreak »
  • Refer any suspected cases to the local health department and appropriate healthcare facility by informing the Office of School Health (OSH) Nursing Communicable Disease Liaison at 718-310-2476.
  • Provide patients with suspected novel coronavirus illness immediately with a surgical mask and placed them in isolation and out of commonly used areas such as hallways until screening is completed.

For travelers returning from China

The US State Department and the CDC are advising US travelers to avoid all nonessential travel to China. If you must travel to China, CDC recommends

  • Avoid contact with sick people.
  • Discuss travel to China with your healthcare provider. Older adults and travelers with underlying health issues may be at risk for more severe diseases.
  • Avoid animals (alive or dead), animal markets, and products that come from animals (such as uncooked meat).
  • Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available.

And, if you were in China in the last 14 days and feel sick with fever, cough, or difficulty breathing, you should:

  • Seek medical care right away. Before you go to a doctor’s office or emergency room, call ahead and tell them about your recent travel and your symptoms.
  • Avoid contact with others.
  • Not travel while sick.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when coughing or sneezing.
  • Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available.

Guidance from the DOE

Other resources

Related Topics: Safety and Health