South Florida school districts, hospitals take precautions amid virus’ spread

MIAMI (WSVN) - The leaders of Miami-Dade and Broward counties’ school districts are taking precautions, such as having hand sanitizer readily available, as they prepare for a possible coronavirus outbreak in South Florida.

School administrators in Miami-Dade County are distributing hand sanitizer on every school bus in the district and will have them at every school, especially in areas where large groups of students congregate, such as gyms and cafeterias.

“If there are sick children or employees, the best place for them to be is not in school, is not at work, is at home in consultation with their primary care physician,” Miami-Dade County Public Schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho said. “We are ready. We have protocols in place.”

Schools officials said the biggest push will be educating people about the virus. Officials also plan on sending out public service announcements and flyers to families and employees to prevent the spread of germs.

“The most important and powerful tool we have is education,” Carvalho said. “If there is one place where a contagion can actually spread, it could also be the school house. Why? Because regardless of ZIP code, they all come together, and then, they return back to the community. That is why this set of information, these protocols, these practices and these preventive measures are so, so important. Information is the most powerful tool of avoiding the spread of the coronavirus.”

When asked what happens if someone becomes symptomatic, Carvalho said, “We put into a motion a number of steps, which could include [an] isolation of groups of students, isolation of the entire school, closure of the school, even though that would be very atypical.”

Similar measures are being taken in Broward County. School administrators there are creating a plan to deal with the virus and focusing their attention on education, as well.

“We are making sure that one, that we’re not spreading fear and panic, but what we want to do is spread information to make sure that folks understand the precautions they can take, what signs they should look for and what they should do and who they should contact, so we’re making sure we get that information out,” Broward County Public Schools Superintendent Robert Runcie said. “It is something we’re on alert for.”

Several South Florida universities have also taken precautions, such as restricting travel to the countries most affected by the virus.

Florida International University has restricted travel to Italy, Singapore, Japan and South Korea, and the travel restriction includes spring break and study abroad programs. The university is also bringing back students and staff from the afflicted countries.

The University of Miami has also announced similar restrictions to those countries most affected by the outbreak.

However, schools are not the only organizations in South Florida preparing for a possible outbreak.

Hospitals like the new Coral Gables Emergency Center have designed several rooms to battle the virus.

“This room is an isolation room,” Luis Gutierrez Galatas, a doctor at Coral Gables Hospital, said. “It’s a negative pressure room, so the negativity of the room, what comes in, it doesn’t come out.”

Anyone placed inside of the room will stay there until they are deemed safe for release. Until that happens, the only people they will come in contact with will be wearing hazmat suits, which is standard protocol in preventing the virus from spreading.

“It happened with Ebola,” Galatas said. “It happened with SARS. It happens with anything that we think that is contagious.”

Miami-Dade County leaders will be holding a round-table discussion scheduled for Friday, where they will discuss a plan on how to deal with an outbreak in South Florida.

Copyright 2020 Sunbeam Television Corp. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.