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Bitterroot schools taking coronavirus precautions

Hamilton High School
Posted at 1:36 PM, Mar 04, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-04 16:18:20-05

School districts in the Bitterroot are continuing to precautions in the event that the coronavirus arrives in Western Montana.

Hamilton School District spokeswoman Justine Stewart says that administrators -- along with other school districts in the area -- have met with the Ravalli County Health Department to create a common plan to stay abreast with the developments of COVID-19.

Preparedness and cleanliness have already been underway in Hamilton schools as they deal with an active flu season. Stewart says the district is currently using a special hospital-grade cleaning tool that sprays hypochlorous acid on a daily basis on any surface students or staff may touch.

The district is also asking that sick students – as well as faculty and staff -- stay home. Stewart also notes the Hamilton School District “will continue to monitor any reports of illness and relay that information to the Ravalli County Health Department.”

Meanwhile, the Florence Carlton School District sent out information to parents about preventing the spread of contagious diseases, including the coronavirus. Superintendent Bud Scully says that the school will be implementing several steps to protect students and staff.

Below are some of the steps being taken by the District:

  1. No salad bar, but salad will still be served when on the menu from the kitchen.
  2. Silverware will be dispensed from the kitchen with the tray.
  3. Students should use refillable water bottles when they can, instead of the drinking fountains.
  4. Drinking fountains and door knobs will be cleaned periodically throughout the school day.
  5. Teachers will instruct students on preventative hygiene methods to use.
  6. If your child is sick they should be kept home until symptoms have cleared. If they exhibit symptoms of the coronavirus contact your families health care provider.
  7. Students who stay home because they are sick will not have absences counted against them for total absences.
  8. Please remind your students to Please wash your hands, do not share drinks or food with others, and to cover their coughs and sneezes.
  9. Custodial staff will be working to sanitize surfaces and restrooms, students can help by making sure they put trash in the trash cans.
  10. Custodial staff will be working to sanitize surfaces and restrooms, students can help by making sure they put trash in the trash cans.

No cases of coronavirus have been reported in Montana at this time.

Gov. Steve Bullock announced on Tuesday that state public health and emergency response officials have activated the Governor’s Coronavirus Task Force to monitor the situation.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has more information about coronavirus on their website, including the following:


CDC is responding to an outbreak of respiratory disease caused by a novel (new) coronavirus that was first detected in China and which has now been detected in 60 locations internationally, including in the United States. The virus has been named “SARS-CoV-2” and the disease it causes has been named “coronavirus disease 2019” (abbreviated “COVID-19”).

On January 30, 2020, the International Health Regulations Emergency Committee of the World Health Organization declared the outbreak a “public health emergency of international concernexternal icon” (PHEIC). On January 31, 2020, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex M. Azar II declared a public health emergency (PHE) for the United States to aid the nation’s healthcare community in responding to COVID-19.

Source and Spread of the Virus

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that are common in people and many different species of animals, including camels, cattle, cats, and bats. Rarely, animal coronaviruses can infect people and then spread between people such as with MERS-CoV, SARS-CoV, and now with this new virus (named SARS-CoV-2).

The SARS-CoV-2 virus is a betacoronavirus, like MERS-CoV and SARS-CoV. All three of these viruses have their origins in bats. The sequences from U.S. patients are similar to the one that China initially posted, suggesting a likely single, recent emergence of this virus from an animal reservoir.

Early on, many of the patients at the epicenter of the outbreak in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China had some link to a large seafood and live animal market, suggesting animal-to-person spread. Later, a growing number of patients reportedly did not have exposure to animal markets, indicating person-to-person spread. Person-to-person spread was subsequently reported outside Hubei and in countries outside China, including in the United States. Some international destinations now have apparent community spread with the virus that causes COVID-19, meaning some people have been infected who are not sure how or where they became infected. Learn what is known about the spread of newly emerged coronaviruses.