Dear Meridian Staff, Families, and Community,

There is a lot of information in the news about the outbreak of a respiratory illness caused by a novel coronavirus, known as COVID-19. This virus can spread from person-to-person and the number of cases detected in the United States and in many other countries is increasing. According to the Washington State Department of Health, the immediate risk to the general public in Washington and the United States is considered to be low. As of this morning, there is no evidence that COVID-19 is spreading in Washington.

However, this is an emerging, rapidly evolving situation that may have significant implications for Washington communities, including schools, in the coming days or weeks. I want to thank our nursing and health staff for their work to put measures in place to screen and identify anyone who may be displaying symptoms. The following are resources that may be helpful:

Please familiarize yourself with facts about COVID-19. The best source of information right now is the Washington State Department of Health (DOH) Novel Coronavirus webpage. They have a novel coronavirus fact sheet available in 11 languages and a page dedicated to schools. The site also includes workplace recommendations and links to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) resources and information. Both the DOH and CDC websites are updated regularly.

We are in contact with the Whatcom County Health Department – one of 35 Local Health Jurisdictions. Washington state has established a comprehensive incident management structure, led by the Department of Health, which includes ongoing communication with local health jurisdictions. I encourage you to visit the Whatcom County Health Department website, as well. Any decisions to control the spread of COVID-19 in Washington through “social distancing” measures such as canceling public gatherings; closing businesses, schools, or childcare programs; etc.; will likely be driven through this structure.

Please keep in mind that viruses like COVID-19 are not at all connected to race, ethnicity, or nationality. Sharing accurate information during a time of heightened concern is the best method to keep rumors and misinformation from spreading. We are engaged in contingency planning for the possibility of extended school closures should the situation in our state dramatically change in the coming weeks. Closures in other countries experiencing the COVID-19 disease outbreak are ranging from a few days to a few weeks. Please know any decision to close schools will be thoroughly examined with student, staff and community health at the center of that decision.

We encourage you to follow common-sense strategies for preventing communicable diseases:

Individual level

  • Practice social distancing when ill.
  • Parents: Please keep children home who exhibit cold and flu-like symptoms.
  • We will encourage staff to refrain from coming to work if they have cold and flu-like symptoms.

Handwashing

  • Encourage all students to keep unwashed hands out of their mouths, eyes, etc.
  • Encourage all students to use anti-bacterial soap.

Classroom/School level

  • Our teachers will review hand-washing techniques with students.
  • We discourage the sharing of food.
  • Maintenance and classroom staff will use anti-bacterial products on all high-touch surfaces daily.
  • Increase the frequency of school building cleaning by maintenance staff and upgrade via the use of more effective cleaning products.

While the COVID-19 news is concerning, please remember there are other respiratory viruses like influenza currently circulating in schools. Fever, coughing, and difficulty breathing are symptoms associated with all of them. Therefore, anyone exhibiting these symptoms should not be assumed to have COVID-19. We will continue to update you with any new information that may come our way and potentially impact our schools.

Please visit the websites recommended in this message and don’t hesitate to call with any questions.

Sincerely,

Dr. James Everett