NewsMissoula County


MCPS superintendent details coronavirus preparations

MCPS Administration Building
Posted at 4:03 PM, Mar 10, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-10 18:03:49-04

MISSOULA — Missoula County Public Schools students will soon be heading out for spring break and for some, that means traveling to states where coronavirus cases have been confirmed.

The school district is doing its part to inform parents and students on how best to avoid catching and spreading the virus.

The process of developing a coordinated response between Missoula County Public Schools (MCPS) and other local entities for potential cases of coronavirus continues as the number of cases grow around the country.

With spring break beginning on Monday, March 16, Missoula County Public Schools Superintendent Rob Watson says they are encouraging faculty and students to take a common-sense approach when they return from break, especially to those traveling to areas where the virus is becoming more prevalent.

“We’re encouraging students and staff to stay home when they’re sick, and you know, seek medical advice from a healthcare provider,” Watson said.

MCPS has already set guidelines for measures students and faculty should take on a day-to-day basis. Watson says the measures mirror guidelines set forth by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

“We’re making sure that all our staff are equipped with materials to wipe down surfaces -- and not only table-tops but door handles, whiteboard markers, computer keyboards, anything that -- frequently touched surfaces,” Watson said.

“We’ve also talked specifically about the times during the day to practice hand-washing, obviously before students eat, before and after recess, those sorts of things,” he added.

Missoula infectious disease specialists and school officials believe it’s only a matter of time before cases of coronavirus are confirmed in Missoula. Superintendent Watson says they’ll be prepared when it happens.

“We have a response team that includes administrators for our district but also, we take advice from the local county health department. If there were a case in Missoula, or when there is a case in Missoula, we’ll follow their advice,” he explained. “If it is somehow connected to our school district then they’ll have specific advice on what we need to do.”

MCPS does have a FAQ section for those with concerns or questions regarding all thing's coronavirus on their website, and that information is continually updated as new information develops.

Watson says he is impressed with how well the school system, the Missoula City-County Health Department, the University of Montana, and others have worked together as information on the virus has evolved.

Additional information about the coronavirus can be found by calling the Missoula City-County Helath Depart,memt hotline at (406) 258-INFO, or by clicking here.

While Missoula County currently does not have any cases, the health department encourages the public to take the following basic precautions:

  • Avoid close contact with people who are ill.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
  • Frequently clean and disinfect surfaces with regular household cleaners.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water, scrubbing for at least 20 seconds, especially after using the restroom, before eating, and after coughing, sneezing or blowing your nose.
  • If soap and water are not available for handwashing, use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
  • Do not travel to areas identified as being at elevated risk for the virus.

Additional information about the coronavirus can be found by calling the local hotline at (406) 258-INFO, or by clicking here.

Additional information about coronavirus can be found on the CDC's website, including the following:

Outbreaks of novel virus infections among people are always of public health concern. The risk to the general public from these outbreaks depends on characteristics of the virus, including how well it spreads between people; the severity of resulting illness; and the medical or other measures available to control the impact of the virus (for example, vaccines or medications that can treat the illness). That this disease has caused severe illness, including illness resulting in death is concerning, especially since it has also shown sustained person-to-person spread in several places. These factors meet two of the criteria of a pandemic. As community spread is detected in more and more countries, the world moves closer toward meeting the third criteria, worldwide spread of the new virus.

It is important to note that current circumstances suggest it is likely that this virus will cause a pandemic. This is a rapidly evolving situation and CDC’s risk assessment will be updated as needed.

Current risk assessment:

  • For the majority of people, the immediate risk of being exposed to the virus that causes COVID-19 is thought to be low. There is not widespread circulation in most communities in the United States.
  • People in places where ongoing community spread of the virus that causes COVID-19 has been reported are at elevated risk of exposure, with increase in risk dependent on the location.
  • Healthcare workers caring for patients with COVID-19 are at elevated risk of exposure.
  • Close contacts of persons with COVID-19 also are at elevated risk of exposure.
  • Travelers returning from affected international locations where community spread is occurring also are at elevated risk of exposure, with increase in risk dependent on location.

CDC has developed guidance to help in the risk assessment and management of people with potential exposures to COVID-19.