• Frequently Asked Questions about COVID-19

    This guidance is subject to change based on evolving information. Additional resources can be found on the right side of this page or on the CDC's Frequently Asked Questions and Answers webpage.

    What is COVID-19 or Novel Coronavirus?

    A novel coronavirus is a new coronavirus that has not been previously identified. The virus causing coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), is not the same as the coronaviruses that commonly circulate among humans and cause mild illness, like the common cold. Frequently reported signs and symptoms of COVID-19 include fever, cough, muscle pain or fatigue, and shortness of breath at illness onset. Sore throat has also been reported in some patients in the early stages. Children who are getting ill may exhibit different behavior than usual, such as eating less or being irritable.

    A diagnosis with coronavirus 229E, NL63, OC43, or HKU1 is not the same as a COVID-19 diagnosis. Patients with COVID-19 will be evaluated and cared for differently than patients with common coronavirus diagnosis.

    Preliminary data suggest that older adults and persons with underlying health conditions or compromised immune systems might be at greater risk for severe illness from this virus. In fact, most confirmed cases of COVID-19 have occurred in adults.

    What is the role of schools in responding to COVID-19?

    As an educational institution, our proactive and reactive measures to COVID-19 must be informed, logical and proportionate to the risk. We are working with local health departments and understand that we have an important role in slowing the spread of diseases to help ensure students have safe and healthy learning environments. Schools are not expected to screen students or staff to identify cases of COVID-19. If a school has cases of COVID-19, local health officials will help identify those individuals and follow up on next steps, which are evolving on an hourly basis and will likely involve a DOH, CDC or state mandated action.

    What is the HCSD doing to prepare for COVID-19?

    We are planning and preparing, as per guidance from federal, state, and local authorities. Specifically, we are:

    • reviewing, revising, and implementing our Emergency Operations Plans
    • staying in close communication with local health departments and other educational institutions;
    • monitoring and planning for student and staff absences;
    • continuing our current procedures for students and staff who are sick at school (schools are not expected to screen students or staff to identify cases of COVID-19);
    • continuing our cleaning protocols, and reminding staff of these protocols;
    • encouraging students and staff to wash their hands and to utilize hand sanitizer when unable to wash their hands;
    • working to communicate often and through the various channels available to the district. 

    Is the HCSD canceling certain events?

    What about large gatherings of students and staff during the school day?
    Breakfast and lunch will continue as normal, with handwashing and/or hand sanitizer use strongly encouraged and monitored. Staff and PLC meetings will continue as normal; again, we encourage practicing good personal hygiene. Other indoor large gatherings of students and staff are to be suspended immediately. These include assemblies, morning programs, celebrations of learning, talent shows, etc.

    What about students going on field trips or participating in other types of travel? 

    Why is the HCSD implementing these measures?

    We have been working in collaboration with local health authorities and experts in the field, and are grateful for their guidance. Containment and isolation have proven to be the best method in slowly the spread of this illness. According to the CDC, "The U.S. has been implementing an aggressive containment strategy that requires detecting, tracking and isolating all cases. Our travel notices are changing almost daily. We’ve also enacted the first quarantine of this scale in the U.S. and are supporting the state department and HHS in repatriating citizens from high-risk areas. We are doing this with the goal of slowing the introduction of this new virus into the U.S." 

    Are additional cleaning protocols being instituted in schools?

    The state DOH has provided Interim Cleaning and Disinfection Guidance for Primary and Secondary Schools for COVID-19 from the New York Department of Health. Per the guidance, schools should continue performing routine cleaning. Specific high-risk locations warrant cleaning and disinfection at least daily, including the lunchroom, health office, and high contact surfaces, such as light switches, handrails, and doorknobs or handles.

    If an individual with laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 was symptomatic in a school-setting, cleaning and disinfection would occur throughout the school.

    The cleaning protocols have been shared with our custodial staff and will be implemented immediately. 

    What about cleaning protocols on buses?

    In accordance with the state's guidance mentioned above, the district is cleaning frequently-touched surfaces, including those on buses. Our protocols now include wiping down handrails and other surfaces touched throughout the day, in addition to disinfecting all seats daily. We are awaiting guidance regarding permission to keep large bottles of hand sanitizer on our buses as well.

    Who can close schools?

    The decision to close schools rests in the first instance with the local board of education or superintendent of schools, in consultation with local health authorities. Schools will be required to follow requests of the local health department and county emergency managers, as well as any emergency declarations issued by the Governor. The NYS Commissioner of Education also has the authority to close schools under extraordinary circumstances, in which local school officials do not take action deemed appropriate by State and/or county emergency personnel in accordance with county or State emergency preparedness plans or directives.

    Are schools required to close if any students or staff are diagnosed with COVID-19?

    As per joint guidance from the New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH) and Education Department (NYSED), when a school initially has a student or staff that tests positive, the entire school will close for 24 hours while the local department of health investigates and sets forth a plan for any further precautionary measures that the school must take to contain exposure, which may result in additional closure. During this time, the entire school building shall be disinfected in accordance with guidelines from the NYSDOH with approved cleaners. Additional closure beyond the 24 hours is a decision that will be made on a case-by-case basis by the local department of health.

    What about feeding children during an extended closure?

    On the afternoon of March 12, 2020, ICSD received approval from New York State Child Nutrition Program Administration to provide “grab-and-go” meals for children in the event of a closure. We will have two (2) pickup locations and will provide delivery for those who are in dire need. Our plans (i.e. specifics regarding menu, locations, times, communication, etc.) are ready to implement if/when we close. 

    We have also communicated with local groups that support people in our region experiencing food insecurity, to involve them in the process as necessary. Our local community is collaborating well on this potential issue.

    Does the HCSD recommend that people wear masks?

    Based on guidance from local, state and federal health authorities, the HCSD recommends that the only people who should wear surgical masks are those who: are currently displaying flu-like symptoms and cannot be isolated (and are waiting to go home); and have, under the care of a medical provider, been advised to do so, given a pre-existing condition.

    There are national concerns regarding surgical mask shortages for those who need them. Please do not wear a mask unless you are ill or have a pre-existing condition.

    Surgical masks are used as a physical barrier to protect the user from hazards, such as splashes of large droplets of blood or body fluids.Surgical masks also protect other people against infection from the person wearing the surgical mask. Such masks trap large particles of body fluids that may contain bacteria or viruses expelled by the wearer.

    What are nonpharmaceutical interventions?

    Nonpharmaceutical interventions (NPIs) are actions, apart from getting vaccinated and/or taking medicine, that organizations can take to help slow the spread of illnesses. 

    A number of NPIs are part of our policies and regular operating procedures, such as contacting parents to pick up ill children and keeping them at home for a recommended time period, providing hand washing and respiratory etiquette education, and limiting large gatherings.

    What is the role of parents and caregivers in responding to COVID-19?

    Know the symptoms of COVID-19 and monitor your child's health closely. If your child exhibits symptoms of the illness, keep him/her home from school and notify the school immediately. School districts in New York State are required to isolate and send home any person who presents flu-like symptoms. Additionally, model basic hygeine and healthy lifestyle practices for protection. This includes thorough handwashing (for at least 20 seconds multiple times per day); coughing/sneezing into your elbow; and discarding tissues immediately after use.

    Sources consulted:
    New York State Department of Health
    New York State Department of Education
    Centers for Disease Control and Prevention