Mar 9th, 2020
Schools aren’t prepared to handle long-term closures due to the coronavirus. Don’t be fooled by germ-zapping robots or custodians fogging hallways with disinfectant. If a pandemic hits, the schools will close - and probably for the rest of 2019-2020 school year! I worked in school for 20 years with most of those being a school administrator involved in school crisis preparedness. In this episode, I’ll step you through what’s happening behind the scenes in America’s schools. HOW MANY SCHOOLS IN AMERICA? 55 million students are educated in 140,000 public and private school buildings each day. That’s more than one million classrooms. As we think of schools, we need to account for community preschool sites, portable classrooms and online instruction. PANDEMIC PLANS ARE AFTERTHOUGHTS. Most schools have antiquated pandemic response protocols in a file - likely something downloaded from a website. Unlike fire drills and intruder exercises, schools are not required to conduct “pandemic” practice activities, such as tabletops or simulations. With school safety singularly focused on intruder drills, schools haven’t been preparing for pandemics. Hype about schools effortlessly being able to teach kids online is greatly sensationalized and won’t work for more than a week or two. Schools simply aren’t designed to offer instruction in an exclusive online format. FEMA CAN TAKE OVER YOUR SCHOOL. Yep, that’s true - and it’s likely in the fine print of your county’s emergency management plan and only after the governor has declared a disaster - but it can happen. Dr. Perrodin explains what would rapidly unfold if FEMA took over school as medical or supply sites due to a coronavirus outbreak. In 2008, Dr. Perrodin worked in a school district that had two of its schools quickly taken under the complete authority of FEMA following a natural disaster. THE 5 THINGS THAT WOULD CAUSE SCHOOLS TO CLOSE. (1) COVID positive test for school staff or student that had been attending school - yep, one person and you can expect the district to shutter; (2) Local decision due to pressure by parents or teachers; (3) More than 30% of students are absent; (4) Disruption of supply chain including food, soap, paper towels, or cleaning supplies; (5) Government decree to close schools (likely beginning at a county level). It is very unlikely that the federal government would close all schools. WHY THE 2014 MRSA SCARE COST US DEARLY RIGHT NOW. On September 18, 2014, President Obama issued an executive order combating antibiotic-resistant bacteria. This order included a multi-agency plan due in 2020 to respond to this threat to domestic security – a plan that would mandate standards for electronic health record-based reporting for MRSA (Obama, 2014). As of July 2019, a uniform MRSA database had not yet been established in the United States and other countries. Had the plan been carried out, we would have had an established model to replicate for a coronavirus database. It also underscores how we pretty much just wait (and hope) for things to run their course and return to some type of similarity. MARKETING FEAR. In 2016, a $100,000 germ-zapping robot named ‘Gronk’ helped to kill MRSA at a Massachusetts High School. Hundreds were sold as school boards couldn’t vote fast enough to burn cash on items that probably worked, but weren’t necessary. (Ever heard of bleach and a rag?) Today, schools are buying Ghostbusters-like backpacks that fog hallways with disinfectant clouds. US WARNS 7 COMPANIES OVER FRAUDULENT CORONAVIRUS CLAIMS. On March 9, 2020, Federal regulators warned seven companies to stop selling soaps, sprays and other concoctions with false claims that they can treat the new coronavirus — or keep people from catching it. There are no approved treatments for the virus, and none are likely to be ready for months or years. FOLLOW DR. PERRODIN: Twitter @SafetyPhD and subscribe to The Safety Doc YouTube channel & Apple Podcasts. SAFETY DOC WEBSITE & BLOG: www.safetyphd.com. The Safety Doc Podcast is hosted & produced by David Perrodin, PhD. ENDORSEMENTS. Opinions are those of the host & guests. The show adheres to nondiscrimination principles while seeking to bring forward productive discourse & debate on topics relevant to personal or institutional safety. LOOKING FOR DR. TIMOTHY LUDWIG, PHD? Dr. Perrodin’s “Safety Doc Podcast” negotiates school and community safety. To be informed about industrial safety, please contact Appalachian State University Professor Dr. Timothy Ludwig, PhD, at www.safety-doc.com. This is episode 120.