Baker says key to virus response is being ready, watching West Coast

Gov. Charlie Baker said on Monday the state is preparing for any major outbreaks of the coronavirus, and will have the ability to test in health care facilities, while at the same time the Boston Public Schools issued a letter of guidance to parents last Friday.
“We’ve obviously been working this issue for over one month now through our contacts with the CDC and our colleagues in municipal government in all the departments of public health,” said the governor. “I think that the thing everybody is focused on at this point is ensuring we are in a position to make sure people who show signs are tested and tested quickly. We now have the ability to do the tests here in Massachusetts and we spent a good part of last weekend talking to our colleagues in the health care world making sure we have the testing capacity and can test when we need to.
“I certainly think that people who are coming back from areas that have a high level of presence of this virus, some sort of stay-at-home type of quarantine is not a bad idea,” he continued. “That’s obviously one of the things we’re talking to our colleagues in the public health community for purposes of how we should move ahead in Massachusetts.”
One key focus point this week, he said, was for state officials, City officials and the public health community here to watch what happens on the West Coast – where there have been more cases and outbreaks in the last two weeks.
“I think the thing many of us are going to pay a lot of attention to in the next several days is going to be the fallout on the West Coast,” he said. “It’s pretty clear, and it may have to do with their proximity to Asia from a geographic point of view, but I think a lot of us are particularly interested in what happens there.”
On Friday, Supt. Brenda Cassellius issued a letter to parents about the precautions and facts on the ground at all Boston Public Schools. She said the threat to students is still low, but that there have been precautions taken.
One thing that has been done is, over February School Vacation, most all buildings were cleaned thoroughly and sanitized.
“It is the top priority of Boston Public Schools (BPS) to keep our students and staff safe and healthy in our schools,” she wrote. “As you may know, news about the coronavirus continues to evolve and unfortunately the virus has continued to spread. However, the threat to Boston remains low. Despite the low risk in Boston, we are preparing for any developments. BPS is monitoring the situation closely and is in constant communication with our city partners at the Boston Public Health Commission (BPHC).”
In addition to cleaning all of the schools, the school nurses and BPS Health Services continue to collaborate with BPHC to determine if any targeted cleaning is needed for schools experiencing a high number of students with winter illnesses, like the flu or common cold.
Baker said the state will be ready to work the plans they’ve had in place for some time, but with the flexibility to change course as things evolve on the front lines.
“The game plan here is to make sure we’re doing all the surveillance work we need to do and that we’re in a position to conduct testing as appropriate and we have a public health and health care system that is able and ready to deal with this as it moves forward,” he said. “I fully expect this is a thing where you plan the work and work the plan, but you also expect and anticipate the plan is going to change with the facts on the ground.”
The following are some general tips to staying healthy and protecting oneself from the flu and other respiratory illnesses:
•Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds;
•If you do not have access to soap and water, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer;
•Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands;
•Avoid close contact with people who are sick;
If you have cold-like symptoms, you can help protect others by;
*Staying home while you are sick;
•Avoiding close contact with others;
•Covering your mouth and nose with a tissue (or arm) when you cough or sneeze, then throw the tissue in the trash and wash your hands;
•Cleaning and disinfecting objects and surfaces.
Cutline –
Gov. Charlie Baker told members of the media on Monday that they plan to watch how the virus outbreak unfolds on the West Coast, but also to be ready to act with current public health plans if need be.

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