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APS proactive in preparation for possible coronavirus

The Austin Public Schools are being proactive in preparing for any potential threat from the coronavirus, according to Mark Raymond, director of human resources for the district.

“If there is a message we want to give, it’s that we have stepped up the cleaning and disinfecting of our schools to prevent not only a potential spread of the coronavirus, but flu and colds as well,” he said.

“We do some of this every winter,” at the height of the flu season, he said, but officials have stepped up the frequency.

The schools have also worked to raise awareness among students about the importance of hand-washing and other preventative measures to reduce the spread of germs. Teachers are also talking about it in classrooms, hanging signs, and making available hand sanitizers at different locations in the schools.

As of Thursday afternoon, no person had tested positive for the virus in Minnesota. However, Raymond said, he is in contact daily with the Minnesota Department of Health on any new developments in the spread of the virus.

Should the virus be declared a pandemic – done by the World Health Organization — plans may change and “the school district has to be ready to respond to county and state requests” in how to deal with the illness, Raymond said. Those plans could include closing schools for a time, he said. If it came to that, he added, it would be likely all schools in the state would close for a time.

This is not the first time the schools have monitored an outbreak. In 2009, the H1N1 strain of influenza was named a pandemic by the WHO; however, no schools were closed in Minnesota.

Raymond said the schools would do everything to keep parents informed of any changes by posting information on the district web page and Facebook page.

If there is a bright spot, it is that spring break is only two weeks away (March 23-27) which will also help prevent the spread.

“It is well-timed,” agreed Raymond.