Coronavirus presence in county: how it affects local school districts, local updates, and how to stay safe


Janya Sundar

Above, Dr. Sara Cody provides an update in a video on a third case of COVID-19 in the county. Image courtesy of the Santa Clara County Public Health Department Facebook.

There have been seven reported coronavirus cases in the county as of Feb 29, according to the Santa Clara County Public Health Department. 

According to Superintendent Nellie Meyer in a letter to parents, staff, and the community, the county health department will notify the district of any students ordered to quarantine and give academic support to students in both mandatory and voluntary quarantine. The letter also said that in the unlikely event that there are interruptions to the school schedule, the district plans to follow local and county emergency procedures. 

Principal David Grissom said there are no plans to close the school at this time. He added that if a plan was to arise, it “would probably come as a directive” from the county health department and the district board of education. 

The school exchange trip to Iwata, Japan, has been canceled. According to an email sent to the delegates by head coordinator Nicole Higley, the trip is canceled because Japan’s schools are closed for the rest of the school year, and MVHS families are worried about the potential risks of traveling. No other school trips have been canceled at this time. 

The third coronavirus case in the county was reported on Friday and involves an older woman with chronic health problems. She had no known exposure to the virus through travel nor did she have contact with a traveler or infected person. She received treatment at El Camino Hospital in Mountain View. 

According to the Marin Independent Journal, an anonymous El Camino nurse said that staff were frustrated and worried about the lack of available tests from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as well as the lack of protective gear such as N95 respirator masks to protect health care workers while treating the sick. The nurse said a doctor and several emergency room staff have been quarantined. 

According to junior auxiliary volunteer Arushi Singh, volunteer shifts at El Camino have been cancelled until further notice.

Dr. Sara Cody, the county’s health officer, said there is no evidence that this woman’s case is linked to other cases in California. 

“This new case indicates that there is evidence of community transmission but the extent is still not clear,” Cody said in a public statement. 

On the same day, Palo Alto school district officials sent home two students, one at Palo Alto High School and the other at JLS, as a precaution after they learned their parent may have been exposed to the virus. 

The fourth case of coronavirus was reported the next day, on Saturday, Feb. 29. The patient is an adult woman who is a “household contact” of the county’s third case. She is currently not in the hospital or ill, according to the county health department. 

The county’s health department will notify the district if any students of families are quarantined. If any students are quarantined, the school will help them work from home and the absences will be excused. 

The Mountain View-Whisman School District, according to a YouTube video by Dr. Ayindé Rudolph, plans to take several measures to protect students and staff, including monitoring absences and illnesses, deep cleaning common areas, and asking students to wash their hands after recesses. The district is currently working with the county’s department of education and department of health to ensure the community’s safety. 

About the coronavirus

According to the World Health Organization, coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome or, SARS-CoV. The coronavirus outbreak that originated in Wuhan, China, a new strain that has not been previously identified in humans. This virus has killed around 3,000 people and infected more than 86,000. 

According to the WHO, around 80 percent of patients recover from the COVID-19 without special treatment. About two percent of people with the disease have died. 

The most common symptoms of the disease are fever, tiredness, and dry cough. Symptoms are usually mild, and some infected people don’t develop any symptoms. Older people and people with pre-existing medical conditions such as high blood pressure, heart disease, or diabetes seem to be more at risk. 

How to protect yourself and others

The disease can spread from person to person through small droplets from the nose or mouth which are spread when a person with COVID-19 coughs or exhales on objects or people. People can also catch COVID-19 if they breathe in droplets from a person with the virus. It is important to stay more than three away from a person who is sick. 

In order to protect yourself, it is important to regularly and thoroughly clean your hands with an alcohol-based handrub or wash them with soap and water. Additionally, it is important to follow good respiratory hygiene by covering your mouth and nose with a bent elbow or tissue when you cough or sneeze and immediately disposing of the tissue afterwards. In the letter from Meyer, the district asks students who have returned from China, or who have had contact with a person who has returned from China, to self-quarantine for 14 days. The letter also recommended that students remain at home if they have a fever over 100 degrees fahrenheit.