Hoboken prepares for Coronavirus

Mayor and superintendent of schools discuss prevention

Mayor Ravi Bhalla has released an update on Hoboken’s preparations for the Coronavirus, or COVID-19, to the community via a Nixle alert.

“While there are no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in our city at this time, we are taking all necessary precautionary measures to ensure the safety and well-being of our residents,” said Bhalla on Tuesday, March 3, noting that the administration has been in close contact with Gov. Phil Murphy’s office and the New Jersey Department of Health, along with local hospitals.

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According to the Center for Disease Control, there are 60 presumptive and confirmed cases in 12 states across the country including New York, and a total of six people have died from the disease.

Bhalla said that according to the state, the immediate health risk from the Coronavirus to the public is considered low at this time.

“In an effort to maintain a healthy environment, our city employees have increased the frequency of cleanings and sanitizing procedures in municipal buildings in accordance with CDC guidelines,” said Bhalla.

Bhalla encouraged residents to follow steps recommended by the NJ Department of Health to prevent the spread of the flu and the common cold, which he said can also help prevent the Coronavirus.

Preventative steps include washing hands with soap and water; to avoid touching eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands; to avoid contact with people who are sick; to stay home while you are sick and avoid contact with others; to cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or sleeve when coughing or sneezing; to review and follow all CDC travel advisories when planning travel and if you return home sick to call your healthcare provider before going to a doctor’s office or ER; and to get the flu vaccine even though the vaccine can’t prevent the Coronavirus, because it can minimize the number of residents with flu-like symptoms.

According to recommendations from the CDC, people who are well should not wear a face mask to protect themselves from respiratory diseases, including COVID-19.

Face masks should be used by people who show symptoms of COVID-19 to help prevent the spread of the disease to others. The use of facemasks is also crucial for health workers and people who are taking care of someone in close settings.

“My administration will continue to work closely with the Hoboken Health Department, the Office of Emergency Management and all first responders to appropriately plan for the event of a localized impact,” said Bhalla. “As updates come from the state, we will continue to provide necessary communication to the public about the Coronavirus.”

School closings?

On March 2, Superintendent of Hoboken’s Public School District Dr. Christine Johnson provided an update to district families in the district newsletter regarding the Coronavirus.

She said the district recently took part in a phone conference hosted by the Hudson County Office of Education, during which the schools discussed school closures, quarantined students, sound facilities and hygiene practices, and related bullying.

“First, the NJ Department of Health does not recommend school closure for outbreaks of infectious disease,” she wrote. “The decision to close a school is a local decision and one that is to be made only after consultation with public health officials and the district medical personnel. Our schools will work with local health departments to ensure that recommended control measures (e.g., exclusions, increased cleaning) are being followed. In addition, the local health department in conjunction with NJ Department of Health may recommend enhanced protocols be conducted to monitor the progression and ultimate decline of an outbreak.”

According to Johnson, there is no recommendation to close schools, but if necessary school closures should be utilized on a limited basis to prevent the spread of infection when infections are expected to affect a large number of susceptible people, recommended control measures are inadequate, the facility is unable to function due to increased illness affecting students and staff, or the health department declares an epidemic or cause of ill health to be hazardous.

On the conference call, districts were asked to develop plans in the event that a student was to be quarantined. Across the state, if a child were to be quarantined in another country or state and out of school for more than 10 days, districts were told that that student should be dropped from the rolls but should then be re-registered when he/she returns to school.

If a student is quarantined in New Jersey, districts are responsible for developing a plan to educate the student via technology-based tools.

“In the Hoboken Public School District, we are prepared to educate in this manner on both a small or large scale,” said Johnson. “All principals have been informed that plans for remote learning must be developed and ready for any/all students who are in this situation.”

According to Johnson, school principals and PreK Providers were instructed to have all soap and hand sanitizing dispensers full at all times. Custodians were also informed that doorknobs, handles, desks, and tabletops must be wiped down continuously.

She also asked parents to review practices to prevent the spread of respiratory diseases and to keep children home from school if he or she has a fever.

Johnson also said that the district will be vigilant about bullying against students whose ethnic origin is of a nation identified by the CDC as subject to travel restrictions, and that nurses and guidance counselors are prepared to help assist children who exhibit any anxiety or fear regarding COVID-19.

For additional information on safe practices and prevention, visit the New Jersey Department of Health or The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Residents with questions about the Coronavirus can also call the NJ Department of Health COVID-19 hotline at 800-222-1222.

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