OCEAN COUNTY – A task force led by the Ocean County Health Department has been meeting regularly to assist educators in how to reopen safely in September.
The Ocean County Public Health/Education COVID-19 Summer Advisory Committee has been helping plan and prepare the best practices to protect students, teachers and staff.
“The main purpose of the group is to keep the lines of communication open between public health and education institutions in Ocean County,” explained Daniel Regenye, OCHD Public Health Coordinator/Health Officer. “It’s an important opportunity to collaborate, share information and guidance recommendations as they become available from the New Jersey Department of Health (NJDOH), New Jersey Department of Education (NJDOE) and Centers for Disease Control and Protection (CDC) as we approach the start of the new school year.”
Topics that are being discussed include: cleaning and disinfection protocols, emergency plans, lunch room guidelines, school activities, and athletics. Every district will also have to work with guidelines on social distancing, face coverings and maintaining hand and respiratory hygiene measures.
Part of the Committee is a School Nurse Subcommittee, because Regenye said they will be on the front lines and should have a seat at the table.
“The school nurses will have a very important job so we take their concerns very seriously,” he said. “They will be called upon to make decisions regarding identification of symptoms, isolation protocols, contacts and quarantine and potentially recommend school closings.”
Based on early studies and data, children of all ages are at risk for COVID-19. However, complications of COVID-19 appear to be less common compared with adults. The OCHD reports that 3.54% of young people 18 years of age and under have been infected with the COVID-19 virus in Ocean County as of July 17, 2020 with no deaths.
“Schools, working in concert with the OCHD, have a key role in mitigating the spread of COVID-19 to ensure students have a safe and healthy learning environment,” explained Patty High, OCHD Assistant Public Health Coordinator. “Schools must be prepared for any COVID-19 outbreaks in their communities and for individual exposures to occur in their facilities while ensuring continuity of education.”
“These meetings, discussions and lines of communication will continue throughout the summer and school year and the OCHD and education officials will ultimately determine the best guidance that is feasible, practical, acceptable and tailored to the needs of each community,” Regenye concluded.
The OCHD has been providing up-to-date guidelines and information for K-12 schools on its website at ochd.org.
The OCHD is also providing a general COVID-19 Information Call Hot Line for residents and clinicians to answer questions regarding the coronavirus. The number is 732-341-9700 ext. 7411. The NJDOH (NJPIES) hotline is available for questions around the clock at 1-800-222-1222 or by dialing 2-1-1. Other related sources; for medical COVID-19 questions call 1-800-962-1253 (24/7) or Text NJCOVID to 898-211 to receive alerts.