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Amherst students & chaperone in quarantine over COVID-19 concerns

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Posted at 12:53 PM, Mar 05, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-05 12:53:25-05

AMHERST, N.Y. (WKBW) — The Amherst Central School District is now spreading the word about 12 students and a chaperone who are now under self-isolation/self-quarantine after returning from a trip to Italy. Italy is one of five countries reporting widespread cases of COVID-19/Coronavirus.

District Superintendent Anthony Panella issued the following letter to parents on Thursday, March 5 keeping them informed about the situation.

According to the letter issued Thursday, Superintendent Panella says no one in the group is displaying symptoms at this time.

Read the full letter below:

Dear Amherst Families,

As this COVID-19 situation unfolds, I want to assure you that I will communicate as often as needed.

I’m writing to provide additional information and reassure you that the health and safety of our

students and staff is our top priority.

I have been made aware of recent concerns regarding the timing of the return of 12 students and a

chaperone from a trip to Italy. I want to restate that there are no confirmed cases of coronavirus in our

district and we are closely following the guidance provided by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC)

and state and local departments of health.

At the time of the group’s departure on Feb. 5 and return at the end of February break, there were no

travel warnings for Italy. It’s important to note, during their trip and upon return, all participants on the

trip were asymptomatic.

As this is a fluid situation, we received guidance from the CDC on Monday, March 2 which included a

CDC travel warning for Italy dated Feb. 28. I contacted the Erie County Department of Health on

Tuesday, March 3 to make them aware of the trip. We contacted them proactively; not because we

suspected anyone was ill or demonstrating any symptoms. The health department implemented their

protocol which includes a voluntary 14-day home quarantine, from the date of their return on Feb. 22,

that began Wednesday, March 4 for the students and chaperone. Again, as a proactive and

precautionary measure. Per health department protocol, if no symptoms arise, the students and staff

member will be cleared by the health department to return to school at the end of the quarantine

period.

Looking ahead, all district-sponsored trips and exchanges will be approved or cancelled based on

recommendations from reputable sources such as the CDC, the World Health Organization, and local

and state health departments. If your child has traveled to or plans to travel to an area with an issued

Travel Health Notice, I ask that you consult one of these reputable sources and notify your building

principal prior to their return to school.

It is important to respect people’s privacy and also important to make sure the community is informed.

We continue our due diligence to maintain a safe and healthy learning environment.

We ask that you continue the preventative measures outlined in previous emails and I will update you

next week on additional measures we have planned to support proper hygiene and cleanliness in our

schools.

Thank you,
Anthony Panella, Superintendent

Wedensday's letter was a follow-up to another notification issued by the district on Wednesday, March 4.

Dear Amherst Families,

I am writing to you with two goals in mind: 1) to dispel rumors that may be

circulating in the community and online, and 2) to ask for your help. First, at this

time there are no confirmed cases of coronavirus in our district. If or when we do

cross that bridge, I would like to make sure the privacy of our students and staff

members is maintained and all people are treated with kindness and respect. I

think Timothy Brewer, professor of epidemiology and medicine at UCLA, said it

best, "There's no value in panicking or telling people to be afraid. Don't let fear and

emotion drive the response to this virus. That can be extremely difficult because it

is new, and we're still learning about it, but don't allow fear of what we don't know

about the virus to overwhelm what we do know."

Please know that the school district works closely with the Department of Health

(DOH). The DOH provides guidance and advice for students or staff who have

returned from traveling to one of the countries that have experienced higher

numbers of confirmed cases of coronavirus. Out of an abundance of caution, the

DOH guidance for those individuals is a voluntary 14-day home quarantine. This

does not mean that they are symptomatic or that they are even being tested for the

virus. It is simply a preventative measure based on what is known to be a 14-day

incubation period. If no symptoms arise, the student or staff member is cleared to

return to school at the end of the quarantine period.

The DOH guidance evolves regularly as does the list of impacted nations. It is

important for families to inform the school district or DOH if they travel to impacted

countries.

As I stated previously, if or when the district becomes aware that a student or staff

member is diagnosed with the coronavirus we will communicate as much

information as legally possible. Again, we need to be respectful of people's privacy

while also maintaining a safe and healthy environment for all students and staff.

Something we plan to do by collaborating with state and local health officials.

In the meantime, I would like to reiterate that proper hygiene and regularly

cleaning of frequently touched surfaces and objects with disinfectants are the best

preventative measures. The District is working diligently to educate our students on

proper hygiene, increase access to hand washing and sanitizing stations, and we

have tasked our cleaning crews with ensuring that high traffic areas and surfaces

are disinfected regularly. We will be increasing the number of cleaning hours and

personnel as an additional proactive measure.

I will continue to provide updates as they become available, but please know I will

not single out any students or staff members by revealing personally identifiable

information or personal medical information.

Thank you,

Anthony Panella, Superintendent

At this time there are no confirmed cases of COVID-19/Coronavirus in Western New York. In all of New York State there are currently 22 confirmed cases.