COVID-19 has been at the forefront of international news for weeks. Locally, both the Oak Park Public Health Department and River Forest District 90 public elementary schools are addressing the issue and keeping up on developments.

COVID-19 is the abbreviated name of the new coronavirus that is spreading across the globe. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) website on Feb. 28, “The virus has been named ‘SARS-CoV-2’ and the disease it causes has been named ‘coronavirus disease 2019’ (abbreviated ‘COVID-19’).”

In a Feb. 26 memo, Oak Park’s health department said officials are working closely with the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), who are managing the state and national response.

According to the memo, COVID-19 is currently not spreading in Illinois communities, but the IDPH “is working with local, state and federal agencies to ensure Illinois is prepared should circumstances change.”

Mike Charley, Oak Park’s health director, is quoted in the memo talking about ways to minimize the chance of infection.

“For individuals, the best strategy at this point is to use every day preventative actions including staying home when sick, covering coughs and sneezes, frequent handwashing and routine cleaning of frequently touched surfaces and objects,” said Charley.

He stressed that the health department is monitoring the situation and following the lead of the state and CDC.

In River Forest, a memo from D90 Superintendent Ed Condon on Feb. 27 said, “the recommendation has been made that schools and businesses consider preparedness planning.”

D90, says the memo, “has had an established plan to address possible pandemics, if circumstances dictate. The plan includes those actions the district will follow before, during, and after an infectious disease outbreak to ensure safety and accommodate ongoing student learning.” The plan follows recommendations from the CDC and/or the IDPH.

As with any illness, students and staff members are expected to stay home until they are free from fever, diarrhea or vomiting for at least 24 hours without any medication.

But Condon’s memo specifically states the communication was being sent to provide information about the district’s preparedness and to share disease prevention tips. In bold, the memo states: “To be clear, public health officials are NOT recommending the cancellation of classes, school events, or community activities at this time.”

According to the Cook County Department of Public Health (CCDPH), symptoms of COVID-19 are similar to those of the flu, including fever, cough and shortness of breath. Prevention for COVID-19 is the same as for the flu.

The CDC recommends steps people can take to reduce the risk of contracting or spreading any disease, including COVID-19. These steps include:

  • Washing hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds
  • Using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer when soap and water are not available
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth
  • Avoiding close contact with sick people
  • Staying home when you are sick
  • Covering your cough or sneezing into your elbow or a tissue, and immediately throwing the tissue in the trash
  • Cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched objects and surfaces
  • Getting a flu shot

For more information about COVID-19

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