By ZEINAB NAJM
Local school districts, stores, city entities and health systems are taking precautionary measures in case the coronavirus — also known as COVID-19 — comes to the area as the virus spreads in the United States.
Coronavirus symptoms include fever, cough and shortness of breath which may appear two to 14 days after exposure, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention website.
Also, reported illnesses have ranged from mild symptoms to severe illness and death for the confirmed virus cases. As of March 5, there has been more than 98,000 cases and 3,300 deaths worldwide, as reported by the New York Times. In the United States, 14 people have died as of March 6 — all on the West Coast, including 11 at the EvergreenHealth Medical Center in Kirkland, Wash. — and 22 states have reported cases, according to the World Health Organization.
The virus originated in Wuhan, the capital in China’s Hubei province in December with Chinese health authorities sharing full details in January. There is currently no vaccine for coronavirus.
In Michigan, as of Feb. 28 five people were sent to the CDC to be tested and were all negative for the virus, a Michigan Department of Health and Human Services press release said.
While no cases have been reported in Michigan, local school districts have sent letters home and posted them online to provide information for families and students.
Dearborn Public Schools Supt. Glenn Maleyko said the district has been in contact with a variety of educational organizations such as the Michigan Department of Education, Wayne Regional Educational Service Agencies, and Michigan Association of School Administrators in developing protocols and procedures that would aid in preparing them in the event of a widespread outbreak in the community.
“We are also closely following the medical recommendations from health care professionals such as the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the Michigan Department of Health, and the Wayne County Health Department,” Maleyko wrote. “These sources remain the best place for the most accurate information regarding COVID-19 (coronavirus). We are also very fortunate to have nurses on our staff who have a professional relationship with these organizations and can provide us with timely information.”
Crestwood School District Supt. Youssef Mosallam said the district will continue to be cautious and at the same time vigilant while they ensure that all students and staff are placed in a safe environment to learn live and play. He added that the district is working with the MDHHS and Wayne RESA, and will keep the community informed as the situation changes.
His letter included three steps the community can take pertaining to any virus which are:
• If your child is ill, take their temperature and if they are running a fever, keep them home and see a doctor.
• Make sure that you continue to emphasize with your children to wash their hands; sneeze or cough into a tissue, and throw out immediately; always to follow good hygiene.
• If you or a family member have travelled out of the country in the last three weeks, keep close attention on how you or they are feeling — if you or they are ill, see a doctor.
In Dearborn Heights District No. 7, Supt. Jennifer Mast said all of the decisions that are being made by the district are taking into consideration the recommendations from the Wayne County Health Department, MDHHS and the Michigan Department of Education which all have information and recommendations that the public can use, along with guidelines from the CDC.
She also said two staff members in the district have recently been out of the county and they will be seeing a doctor upon returning to the United States and submitting the doctor’s recommendation in writing to her.
“The district will at a minimum uphold the endorsement of the doctor,” Mast wrote in her letter. “There may be instances for staff of students who return from abroad, to be asked to take additional precautions being the recommendation of the doctor. This will be decided on a case-by-case basis and the final decision resides with the superintendent.”
Dearborn Director of Public Information Mary Laundroche said Mayor John O’Reilly Jr. and the administration are monitoring the situation.
“Under the mayor’s direction, our fire department, including our emergency management office, have initiated or been part of discussions with appropriate local, regional and state partners, as well as health care systems, as part of prudent planning,” she said in a statement.
As the reported cases of the virus continue to be reported, people are purchasing supplies such as hand sanitizer, napkins, water and gloves or face masks at area stores.
Dearborn Heights Mayor Daniel Paletko said he and the city’s staff are meeting with state and county executives next week as part of a group of communities meeting in effort to protect residents.
“The virus is not unique to one city, so it’s better to cooperate on state and county level,” he said. “They have resources we would not have access to in the city. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has been good with telling us what her plans are and she has put an emphasis on test kits. We’ll be going to meetings next week to learn more.”
Target CEO Brian Cornell said during an earnings call this week with the investment community that the situation is being monitored hour-by-hour as conditions evolve.
“Over the last few days, as obviously everyone’s been reporting, we’ve certainly seen a U.S. consumer that’s starting to stock up on household essentials, disinfectants, food and beverage items – all those staple items that the CDC has recommended guests add to their pantry,” Cornell said.
“Certainly we’ve seen aggressive shopping across the country in our stores. So, we’re working closely with our domestic vendors, with our partners to make sure that we’re elevating inventory in preparation for what we think is going to be a continued demand for stock-up items. We’re seeing that across our network, expect it to continue over the next few weeks and we’ll watch it carefully over time.”
Beaumont Health infectious diseases expert and System Director of Infection Prevention Dr. Nick Gilpin said:
“Before seeking medical care for a potential case of coronavirus, please call ahead to your physician’s office or other health care facility where you receive care. If you are instructed to be evaluated, you would be given a mask upon arrival. If a physician concludes you might have coronavirus, the county health department would be contacted. The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services coordinates the testing. You would be cared for according to current local, state, and federal public health recommendations pending the results of testing.”
Coronavirus prevention measures include washing hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds; using hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol; avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands; avoid close contact with people who are sick; stay home when you are sick; cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue or your upper arm; and clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
For more information on the coronavirus go to www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-nCoV or www.beaumont.org/health-wellness/coronavirus.
(Zeinab Najm can be reached at [email protected])