Los Angeles Times - 04.03.2020

(singke) #1



ty. Health experts have said
that an increase in the num-
ber of cases in the nation
does not necessarily mean
that the virus is spreading
Nevertheless, school offi-
cials across the state are do-
ing their best to prepare in
an anxious environment.
At L.A. Unified School
District, an official checks in
every day with the county
health department and asks
three questions: Is anyone
sick in L.A. County? Are
there any exposures affect-
ing schools? Can we go
about things normally?
So far the answers have
been: no, no, yes.
Schools are operating as
usual, with algebra tests,
lunch lines and basketball
games in the gym. But offi-
cials know that could
“We’re prepared as best
we can be, recognizing this
as uncharted waters for all of
us,” said L.A. schools Supt.
Austin Beutner.
That preparation in-
cluded a 90-minute meeting
Monday at district head-
quarters with labor groups.
The union representing
teachers, counselors, librari-
ans and nurses was repre-
sented by Alex Orozco.
Orozco wanted reassur-
ance that district employees
would not be penalized
“when it comes to having to
miss work” related to the co-
ronavirus. And as far as hy-
giene goes, “we want to
make sure students have
enough time to wash their
hands” within the regi-
mented schedule of the
school day, said Orozco, who
is the designated disaster-
response liaison for United
Teachers Los Angeles.
Beutner seemed sympa-
thetic on both points,
Orozco said.


‘high-touch’ areas

Beutner said that Depu-
ty Supt. Megan Reilly is in
charge of the district’s re-
sponse and that teams are at
work in every facet of opera-
tions in the nation’s second-
largest school system. At the
school level, overtime pay is
available to allow for deeper
and more thorough cleaning
of high-touch areas.
Towel dispensers, door-
knobs, staircase railings,
computer keyboards, toys in
a kindergarten classroom,
seats on buses, the coffee pot
handle in the faculty lounge.
The list goes on.
District planners have
been asked to plan for myri-
ad scenarios: What would
happen if most of the payroll
department called in sick?
What if the IT department
needed to be quarantined or
if there was a break in the
supply chain of the vast food
services operation?
Like some other school
systems, including those in
Long Beach and Glendale,
L.A. Unified is able to reach
parents and staff by phone
or email through automated
systems. These districts and
others also have set up a web
page for bulletins, general
information and links.
A key task is providing
accurate information and

tamping down premature
alarm, Glendale Supt. Vivi-
an Ekchian said.
She has directed that ev-
ery inquiry be answered in-
dividually, although often
that answer is simply a refer-
ral to an L.A. County or Cen-
ters for Disease Control and
Prevention online answer
L.A. Unified has an infor-
mation video and a tele-
phone hotline that is staffed
from 6 a.m. to 5 p.m. The
number is: (213) 443-1300.

Planning for
possible closures
The most difficult sce-
nario is one or multiple
school closures.
School districts said they
would rely on public health
officials to decide if and
when schools should shut
their doors. That could hap-
pen if, for example, a student
or staff member is diag-
nosed with coronavirus, said
Debra Duardo, the L.A.
County superintendent of
But, she said, “we’re not
there yet.”
Still, the county office is
reaching out to districts to
make sure they have ways to
keep students learning if a
campus is closed, Duardo
School districts are dis-
cussing online learning.
Some schools have laptops
and other devices that stu-
dents can take home, while
some districts are exploring
additional possibilities. In
the Pasadena Unified
School District, officials are
thinking about tapping into

the district’s TV station to
help supplement learning,
spokeswoman Hilda Ramir-
ez Horvath said.
But these strategies be-
come especially tricky in dis-
tricts that serve low-income
families. Many lack internet
access at home; for many,
the only family computer is a
shared smartphone.
Duardo said that even
without technology, teach-
ers can find ways to be effec-
“I don’t think it really
matters the form you’re us-
ing for instruction, even if it’s
the old-fashioned providing
an instructional packet,
with some good back-and-
forth communication, a lot
of learning can continue to
take place,” she said.
At Paramount Unified
School District in Southeast
L.A., where officials recently
ordered alcohol-based hand
sanitizer for their class-
rooms, Supt. Ruth Pérez is
thinking about the heavy
burden of possible school
closures on families with few
child-care options.
The district of about
15,000 students is about 90%
Latino and 94% low-income.
“All students in grades
three through 12 have
Chromebooks,” Pérez said.
Although not all families
have their own internet ac-
cess, at least several hun-
dred have access to hot
spots provided as a public
service by Sprint. “We also
have materials and text-
books on Chromebooks that
you don’t need internet ac-
cess for.”
Doing schoolwork at
home “is always a possibility,

but there are parents who
work and leaving a third- or
fourth-grader at home by
themselves is something we
would want to avoid,” Pérez
When it comes to clo-
sures, L.A. Unified at least
has one painfully earned
planning advantage: It has
dealt with shutdowns be-
In the last several years, a
hoax terrorist threat shut
down the entire school sys-
tem for a day; fires shut
down campuses across the
San Fernando Valley; and a
teachers’ strike virtually
brought instruction to a halt
for six days.
During those crises, L.A.
Unified’s responses earned a
mix of praise and criticism.
During recent wildfires, for
example, some faulted the
school system for waiting
too long to cancel classes.
Yet officials carried out the
widespread school closures
in potentially hazardous
conditions without incident.

Colleges taking
University officials are
also preparing and respond-
ing to the virus.
Four students in the Los
Rios Community College
District — two at Sacra-
mento City College and one
each at American River Col-
lege and Cosumnes River
College — reported expo-
sure to an individual con-
firmed to have COVID-19.
All of the exposures hap-
pened while the students
were working off campus as
medical professionals, the

district said on its website.
They were told to self-quar-
antine for 14 days and report
any symptoms to county
health officials.
The district has had no
confirmed infections so far.
County health officials di-
rected all three colleges to
proceed normally with class
and work schedules.
“Out of an abundance of
caution, all campuses have
implemented enhanced
cleaning practices in high-
traffic areas,” the district
Paul Feist, vice chancel-
lor for communications
and marketing at the Cali-
fornia Community Colleges
Chancellor’s Office, said no
colleges have closed as a re-
sult of the outbreak, and he
was not aware of any com-
munity college students
with confirmed cases of
Chancellor Eloy Ortiz
Oakley directed colleges to
review their emergency op-
erations plans, Feist said,
and a web page is available
to keep colleges up to date.
Mike Uhlenkamp,
spokesman for Cal State’s
chancellor’s office, said that
before last week, the uni-
versity had focused on re-
stricting travel to affected
countries and ensuring stu-
dents who were overseas
were safe.
But on Friday, two days
after the CDC announced it
was investigating the first
possible case of “community
spread” of coronavirus in the
U.S., the university activat-
ed its “emergency opera-
tions center,” a virtual forum
on which the chancellor’s of-

fice and university cam-
puses can share updates
about the virus and commu-
nity responses.
No cases of COVID-
have been reported among
Cal State students or staff to
date, Uhlenkamp said. It will
be up to individual college
presidents to decide
whether to close their cam-
Uhlenkamp said all Cal
State campuses have pan-
demic and continuity of op-
erations plans.
“We’ve encouraged them
to review those,” he said.
“Get your decision makers
on the same page so you can
move swiftly.”
At the University of Cali-
fornia, the Office of the Pres-
ident put out guidelines for
all locations. The 19-page
document includes informa-
tion about distributing
masks, taking family and
medical leave, quarantining
students, and reporting
cases to local or state health
authorities, among other
Three UC Davis students
had been placed in isolation
but were released after one
tested negative for the virus.
As they make their
preparations, many school
officials say that for now the
biggest concern is calming
worried families.
“We need to be prepared
so there’s the least amount
of disruption in learning,”
said Duardo, the L.A.
County schools superin-
tendent. But, she added,
“there’s a lot of fear and I
think, unfortunately, some
of it is unnecessary anxiety
among children.”

Schools plan for last resort — closures

SEVERALschool districts in Southern California have systems in place to reach parents and staff by phone or email, and have set up web
pages for bulletins about the coronavirus. Above, plant manager Martin Nevarez cleans a bathroom at John Burroughs Middle School.

Francine OrrLos Angeles Times

[Schools, from B1]

“It’s human nature to
want to touch your face,”
said Dr. Otto Yang, an infec-
tious diseases expert at
There’s a reason for that.
Touching our faces may
actually be related to nega-
tive feelings — a feeling when
we’ve failed to achieve a goal
or aren’t satisfied, according
to a research article pub-
lished in the journal PLoS
Face touching can help
us deal with anxiety and dis-
comfort, and may be com-
forting, the report said. We
might think we want to
touch our faces because of a
perceived itch or to groom
ourselves, but research sug-
gests we’re actually doing it
because we’re somehow un-
easy or unsettled, according
to research described in the
Touching our faces is also
thought to be a way we
might try to avoid being dis-
tracted. In a study of face
touching, researchers con-
cocted ways of trying to dis-

tract study participants
during a difficult mental
task, and found that the hu-
man test subjects increas-
ingly touched their faces
when their attention was
distracted and they needed
to refocus.
Unfortunately, the things
we touch the most often can
often be filthy. Such as our
beloved smartphones.
Which we probably touch as
soon as we wash our hands.
Colonies of bacteria were
discovered on the vast ma-
jority of healthcare workers’
cellphones in one study; 93%
of the phones studied were
found to be crawling with
germs. Most non-healthcare
workers’ phones were also
dirty, with 58% of them home
to microbes, said the study,
published in the Iranian
Journal of Microbiology.
While many people fear
being sneezed or coughed
on, there’s plenty of convinc-
ing evidence that shows just
how easy it is for a virus to
enter through face touching.
Some viruses can survive
for days on hard surfaces,

just waiting to be picked up
by a new fingertip. One
study in the Journal of Hos-
pital Infection found flu
virus persisting on hard sur-
faces in flu patients’ hospital
rooms. The virus was found
on a computer mouse, bed
rail, wall, sofa and clothes.
(In one case, the virus sur-
vived on a surface even after
the room was cleaned and
left empty for 72 hours be-
fore it was tested.)
Viruses are also common
in daycare centers. One
study found more than half
of tested surfaces were con-
taminated with flu virus;
another said “respiratory vi-
ruses were omnipresent ...
especially on the toys.”
Sometimes, it may not be
the droplets in the sneezes
and coughs that are most in-
fectious. Instead, the virus is
in the snot, and the infected
mucus is probably what
helps it spread from person
to person, and hand to hand,
according to a number of
And those seeking safety
in masks should realize that

they don’t keep you from
touching your face.
Surgical masks don’t cov-
er the eyes. And people
wearing masks can some-
times get an itch on their
nose, and if they rub their
nose through their mask,
they’re likely to rub their
eyes, said Dr. James Cherry,
a UCLA infectious diseases
“Viruses are very happy
infecting through the eyes as
well as through nose and
mouth,” Cherry said.
So what can people do to
break the habit?
It’s not going to be easy,
and some of these ideas will
probably sound weird.
8 Start being mindful
when you do touch your face,
catching yourself when —
and, preferably, before —
you do it.
8 If you catch yourself be-
fore touching your face, con-
sider folding your hands or
doing something else with
them, suggests one skin
beauty care website.
8 Got an itch? Try to ig-
nore it. If that’s bothersome,

wash your hands, then
scratch it, then wash your
hands again. Or buy sterile
wooden tongue depressors
to use as a tool to scratch
8 Perhaps consider wear-
ing gloves. The latest food
safety gloves can also be
used on smartphone
screens, and gloves might
make you more conscious
about touching your face.
8 Don’t get discouraged if
it seems hard to learn how to
not touch your face.
“Politicians, for example,
learn through extensive
training to restrain from
touching their face during
public speaking,” said Mar-
tin Grunwald, author of a
book on face touching,
“Homo hapticus,” and an ex-
pert on the subject at the
University of Leipzig in Ger-
He also co-wrote the
study published in PLoS
One on face touching. Still,
“this behavior requires ex-
treme self-control and is ex-
tremely trying.”
Of course, keeping your

hands clean is essential.
Hand-washing with soap
and water for 20 seconds is
effective at killing germs.
Bleach-based wipes also
work — and wipe down your
phone! Hand sanitizer with
at least 60% alcohol can be
effective in killing some vi-
ruses, including the new co-
ronavirus, but can be inef-
fective with other viruses,
UCLA’s Yang said.
There is a bright spot for
those who can master a
touchless lifestyle.
There was a “substan-
tially lower risk of communi-
ty-acquired influenza infec-
tion” for people in the Chi-
nese province of Fujian who
often washed their hands,
rarely touched their face and
received the annual flu shot,
according to a study pub-
lished in the journal Medi-
Most of the flu transmis-
sion analyzed in that study
was probably caused by
touching contaminated sur-
faces and putting dirty fin-
gertips in their mouth, nose
or eyes, the authors said.

A common way to get a virus: Touch your face

[Face,from B1]

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