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Fri, July 10

Prescott-area schools to deep clean, take coronavirus precautions

Yavapai County Community Health Services Epidemiologist Stephen Everett washes his hands in this file image.  (Nanci Hutson/Courier, file)

Yavapai County Community Health Services Epidemiologist Stephen Everett washes his hands in this file image. (Nanci Hutson/Courier, file)

“Keep Calm — Wash Hands.”

Prescott Unified School District Superintendent Joe Howard displayed the purple sign as his segue into assuring the Governing Board Tuesday night the district is monitoring the COVID-19 coronavirus.

The timing for spring break from March 9 to 13 is ideal with the fears about the contagious spread in areas around the United States — Arizona has one confirmed case and a second “presumptive positive” but no cases in Yavapai County, Howard told the board at its regularly scheduled meeting on March 3.

This gives the district’s custodial company a chance to do a deep cleaning of every classroom and school building in the district.

Typically, Howard said the spring-break time is used for special building maintenance and cleaning projects. With concerns about the spreading contagious disease, Howard said the district opted to redirect the crews to acquire special steam-cleaning equipment to focus on eliminating as many germs in the schools as possible. Howard noted this is not just for the novel coronavirus, but students and staff have experienced a lot of flu and other illnesses over the course of the winter months. Other area districts are doing likewise.

“It’s a little extra money, but it’ll be worth every penny,” Howard said of spending a couple thousand dollars above the normal $6,000 to $7,000 spent during this particular week. The costs are included in the district operating budget.

COUNTY HEALTH

Yavapai County Community Health Services Director Leslie Horton maintains that people need to take normal precautions, but sees no risk to people going about their business, even

spring break vacations. People may want to do some homework about outbreaks and risks, but she advises people be aware and alert, not secluding themselves in fear.

“Without any positive confirmed cases,” Horton said, “we hope people will enjoy their lifestyle, but take added precautions.”

She added she would offer similar advice for flu season or the onset of any other contagious illness.

The key precaution — proper personal hygiene.

Wash palms of hands and fingers often with hot water and soap, she and other health professional advise. Proper handwashing protocol suggest at least 30 seconds, or as long as it takes to sing “Happy Birthday” twice. Don’t touch the face or rub one’s eyes.

MASK, OTHER SUPPLIES

Although face masks are now an in-demand commodity, Horton explains that paper or even cloth masks do not immune someone from catching a virus. The masks are more to protect someone else from a person who is sneezing or coughing rather than vice versa, she said.

Goodwin Medical Supply clerk Chris Stevens in Prescott said his shop has sold a ton of surgical masks and hand sanitizer and a few packages of sterilized gloves.

Even online, masks of all types are in short supply because of the high demand.

At this time, Stevens said his store has only the foldable masks left for purchase, with a 20% off the $8 price for any health professionals.

Some of the customers purchasing masks are those who are planning to travel on an airplane, Stevens said.

“I understand. They just want some peace of mind,” he said.

In public or work spaces, Horton and other health officials advise, people stand at least 6 feet away — a couple arm’s lengths — from someone else’s mouth. Fist bumps preferable to handshakes, they suggest.

At area hospitals, clinics and private nursing care facilities, COVID-19 advisories have been posted asking people with any type of symptom to avoid making visits to patients. In some places, disposable masks and hand sanitizer dispensers are available for those entering the premises.

Horton, a parent of two, said she is grateful the schools are taking proactive cleaning steps during the break. She agrees it is a perfect time to sanitize all the surfaces that students and staff touch multiple times a day —desks, computers, work stations, copiers and doorknobs.

“Then they all come back to a clean environment,” Horton said.

For anyone who has traveled or been exposed to those from outbreak areas and goes to a doctor or other health care provider with symptoms of fever, sore throat, cough, aches, similar to those one might experience with flu or other respiratory illness, a test for this coronavirus will be run through the Arizona state lab with results available within a day, Horton said.

Any positive tests must then be forwarded to the lab for the Centers for Disease and Control Prevention with results of those tests often taking up to three days, with those individuals asked to self-isolate until a diagnosis is made, she said.

The Arizona Department of Health has up-to-date monitoring of testing and results, information about the virus and prevention/preparation, said a Community Health Services advisory.

The state’s focus is to monitor travelers, identify and isolate potential carriers, contact tracing for anyone in contact with those individuals, and test high suspect cases. Health departments throughout the state are conducting disease surveillance, coordinating with health partners, developing and distributing guidance to schools, law enforcement, cities and towns, implementing preparedness plans and communicating with state, the CDC and the public. The shift nationally now is to slow the spread of the virus, promote social distancing and protect health care providers.

For more information from the state, visit this website:

https://azdhs.gov/preparedness/epidemiology-disease-control/infectious-disease-epidemiology/index.php#novel-coronavirus-home

For local up-to-date information, contact Terri Farneti at Yavapai County Community Health Services at 928-442-5596 or email Terri.Farneti@yavapai.us

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