CMA and COVID-19-Written by: Judith Volcy, DO
By: Casey Robinson on Aug 6, 2020 | Categories: General
The following manuscript was recently submitted to medical journals. Written by: Judith Volcy, DO
The coronavirus pandemic has forced most schools to make the painful decision to close-many of them for the remainder of the academic year and move to online learning. Although the closing of nonessential businesses is necessary, it presents with many challenges.
As colleges and universities ponder how to possibly open the Fall semester, new measures will have to be implemented to decrease the spread of covid-19 before students, faculty and staff will feel comfortable to come back to campus.
One private boarding school in Camden, SC decided to institute a unique response to the pandemic. With students from 35 different states and 7 different countries, the decision was made to offer parents the option of keeping the students on campus rather than home online learning. Many faculty live on campus. The school has 48 full-time staff members, 12 part-time essential staff members and 35 number of faculty.
On March 13, 2020, the all male boarding school which has a total of 286 students from grades 7 through the 12 grades gave parents the option of keeping
their children on campus or picking them up to continue online learning from their respective homes. They would not be allowed to return the students to campus. Any parent picking up a student would have to stay in their cars and not exit their vehicle and, the student would have to load the car of his belongings. The school was placed on lockdown with no visitors and no nonessential people allowed on campus. Faculty and staff members were issued masks and gloves and were instructed to wear them at all times-especially when engaging any students or off-campus personnel.
Faculty and staff were told if they or a member of their family fell ill or had been possibly compromised, they were to stay home and inform the school. The school immediately stopped all off campus activities to include clubs and interscholastic sports.
The school still held activities on campus for the students to include events such as barbecues, sports activities, and competitions to help keep morale up. Chapel services were divided into two services and were held outside in the football bleachers. Social distancing guidelines, however, were in effect. Students were placed one to a dorm room and the dining hall changed from serving family style meals to a staff-served meal. The seating was spread out to no more than four to five students to a 10-12 person table. The maintenance staff was instructed to daily clean and wipe down all surfaces to include door knobs, tables, desks and to spray bleach and disinfectant spray in the bathrooms and any high traffic surfaces. The classrooms were cleaned and sanitized daily. The goal of these interventions was community containment.
The goal is to keep the children safe on campus rather than potentially send them to a covid-19 dense community back home.
Place and Time:
The community containment was implemented on the school campus starting March 13, 2020 and going to the end of the academic year which was truncated due to the pandemic to May 1, 2020.
The population involved was the student body of 286 students from grades 7-12. Out of the 286 students, 154 (53.8%) students remained on campus. The faculty and staff continued to work on the campus.
The main purpose is to ensure the safety and security of the students, staff and faculty of the school and prevent the spread of covid-19.
Parents were contacted about the option to come pick up their children and start online learning.
Those students that remained on campus continued with classes with the faculty and staff wearing masks and gloves and using social distancing strategies.
Parents were contacted about the option to come pick up their children and start online learning. Students continued with classes on campus with faculty and staff wearing masks and using social distancing strategies.
- The school headmaster met with city and county officials including the CEO of the local hospital and other hospital medical officials as well as the head of the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) immediately following the closing of campus. These briefings were held daily until April 12, 2020.
A testing plan as well as an isolation and quarantine plan was put in place for the school by the school headmaster and nursing staff. The school was able to obtain PPE (personal protective equipment) for the faculty and staff.
154 (53.8%) students remained on campus. For the duration of the community containment, no students, faculty or staff tested positive for covid-19. The school is in Camden, a city of 66, 551 people in Kershaw county, South Carolina. Camden is the seat of the county. Currently, the city of Camden has over 223 cases. At one point early in the pandemic, Kershaw county was leading the state in the number of covid cases.
The state of South Carolina as of April 26, 2020 has 5613 confirmed covid cases.6
The remaining students had to continue taking classes during their scheduled Spring Break. Understandably, this led to disappointment, but the school made sure to have barbecues and sports activities while maintaining social distancing strategies. A counselor was available to provide guidance to parents on how to support their students and to counsel the students through this pandemic.2
Morale had to be kept up by making all involved realize the long-term goal of preventing the spread of coronavirus onto the campus.2
Public Health Significance:
This highlights that strict adherence to social isolation can successfully prevent the spread of coronavirus.
Communities that adhere to the recommendations could be equally successful with reducing transmission. Although this was successful in a private boarding school, there are lessons that small colleges and other boarding schools could consider implementing should another surge occur in the Fall of 2020, as is widely anticipated. Campuses can implement a type of ongoing lockdown measure to not allow non-essential persons onto school campuses. Strict social distancing practices and screening for symptoms of covid should be continued.
The school is prepared to keep the on-campus students past the end of the academic year if need be if their home city is going through the surge of the pandemic.
These community containment measures were successful in preventing the spread of covid on campus. These measures show that with close communication with medical officials and community leaders and parents we can help prevent the spread of covid in the community while trying to continue with a new normal. The strategies implemented here should be taken into consideration in other school districts, small colleges and other boarding schools as they consider how best to continue with school in the age of social distancing. When schools reopen, school officials should consider similar community containment strategies as were implemented at Camden: limit non-essential persons from entering the campus; eliminating student travel to other schools; faculty and staff wear PPE and strict hand washing and staying home if signs or symptoms of illness are detected.
Moving forward, all schools must look at different strategies to help students back into the classroom safely until a vaccine can be developed.