Thursday, March 12: Coronavirus Update

Dear Methow Valley Students, Parents, and Community Members,

I’m guessing that like me, many of you watched or have heard about Governor Jay Inslee’s press release on COVID-19, and his proclamation aimed at slowing the spread of COVID-19.

Prior to his press release, I participated in a number of remote meetings and conference calls with representatives from the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI), Chelan-Douglas Health District representatives, NCESD Superintendents, Okanogan County Public Health officials, representatives from Okanogan County Emergency Management, and the State Superintendent of Public Instruction.

Given the rapid pace at which the situation is evolving, it’s quite possible this information will be outdated by the time I send it to you. Regardless, in an effort to share what I know at this time, here are a few key takeaways that I wish to pass along to you:

  • Recognizing schools serve an important function within our communities, the governor and public health officials associated with our region are asking schools to stay open for now. However, given rapid rate of growth and desire to slow the spread of COVID-19, they are asking all school districts to refine their contingency plans in preparation for the possibility of school closures.
  • Scientific modeling would suggest that the number of Washington residents currently affected by COVID-19 would be in the low thousands, the vast majority who have no idea that they are affected.
    — 360 individuals have tested positive for COVID-19 as of today in the State of Washington.
    — 29 deaths have been associated with COVID-19 in the State of Washington.
  • Epidemiology modeling would say that the number of cases doubles every 5-8 days. Using this formula, it suggests 1,000 confirmed cases today would increase to 64,000 by mid-May and 128,000 by late May.
  • Using these projections, there is heightened concern for hospital staff and facility capacity to accommodate the anticipated need for medical services.
  • King, Snohomish, and Pierce Counties are considered to be highly impacted at this time, resulting in multiple school closures for extended periods of time.

So, what can we do now?

  • Prohibit events and activities involving large group gatherings of over 250 people.
  • Social distancing – When meeting in small group gatherings, maintain a social distance of 6 feet.
  • Cancel all non-school sponsored public meetings, events, community use groups, and extra-curricular indoor athletic events scheduled to take place in our school facilities after the regular school day.
  • Stay home when you’re sick.
  • Call your child’s school if you plan to excuse your child’s absence.
  • Emphasize personal hygiene within the home, school, and workplace – washing your hands with soap and water, coughing and sneezing into elbow or Kleenex, practicing social distancing, and washing your hands often.

Looking forward, what can we anticipate?

  • School closures are predicted to unfold across the state as based upon the continued spread of the virus.
  • Prepare our schools and community for the possibility of a long term closure of our schools. Epidemiologists suggest short term closures of two weeks or less will have virtually no effect on reducing the spread of the virus.
  • Further guidance and direction from local, regional, state, and federal public health officials regarding the closure of schools.
  • We will continue to communicate what we know, the recommended actions intended to keep our community safe, and when possible, what can anticipate using scientific, fact-based information provided by our public health officials.

Thank you for your continued efforts to maintain a calm, steady, and reassuring presence in support of our students during this unprecedented period of time.

Tom Venable
Superintendent, Methow Valley School District