Coronavirus fears have parents asking schools to send some kids home for weeks
VANCOUVER -- Worries about the Wuhan coronavirus have prompted calls from parents in one B.C. city to have kids sent home from school if they were recently in China.
The growing fears among Richmond families were addressed Wednesday in a letter from superintendent Scott Robinson, who indicated the local school district has no plans to turn students away because of their travel history.
"Some parents have asked that schools require students who have recently arrived from China to stay at home for a minimum of two weeks," Robinson wrote.
"It is important to note that schools do not have the authority to make public health decisions such as requiring students to remain at home for health reasons. If any steps were to be taken in relation to a public health concern, it would be at the direction of the Ministry of Health and Vancouver Coastal Health."
The superintendent stressed that B.C. health authorities still believe the risk of catching the novel coronavirus in B.C. remains low, but he highlighted some of the steps Richmond officials are taking to keep students healthy.
Hand sanitizer dispensers have been ordered for the main entrances to every school in Richmond, Robinson said, and the district is taking advice on an ongoing basis from local and provincial health officials.
Authorities have "made it clear that the best defense against any cold and flu virus is proper respiratory hygiene," he wrote.
"This includes proper hand-washing with soap and water and covering your nose and mouth with a tissue when coughing or sneezing."
While officials are not sending students away just because they recently spent time in China, the district is asking all parents to keep their children at home if they're displaying actual cold or flu symptoms, such as coughing and sneezing.
"Please understand that these are preventative measures designed to keep students and staff healthy and are in no way indications that parents should be concerned about sending their children to school," Robinson wrote.
Given the rumours and misinformation spreading about the novel coronavirus, Robinson urged parents to use direct sources – such as the BC Centre for Disease Control website – for virus updates that are "accurate and based on medical science."
On Tuesday evening, B.C. health officials announced the 40-year-old man who had the province's first presumptive case of novel coronavirus has been confirmed to be carrying the disease.
He does not currently require hospitalization and remains in self-isolation at home, authorities said.