Here is the latest information from Chicago Public Schools regarding the COVID-19 (coronavirus) occurrence at Vaughn Occupational High School. Previous messages are below.
The Chicago Department of Public Health has contacted virtually all Vaughn students and staff and began testing those students or staff members who are symptomatic (“symptomatic” means fever/respiratory illness, which can have a variety of causes other than COVID-19). Contact with students and staff regarding testing is ongoing, and deep cleaning of buses and the Vaughn School facility is ongoing.
- There is confusion about whether the virus spreads via contact with surfaces. That issue is still being studied and there’s no conclusion supported by scientific study yet. Some experts believe that it will not survive more than an hour on a surface; others report that due to its similarity to other viruses, it may last for up to nine days on certain surfaces (e.g, metal and plastic). All agree that the virus is easily killed with common disinfectants. So the advice is to wipe down surfaces once a day.
- There is concern about contact with people who have had secondary or tertiary contact with an infected person (i.e., have not had direct contact with an infected person, but have had contact with someone who had direct contact with an infected person). The guidance is that only people who had direct contact with an infected person are asked to quarantine themselves (that includes all students and staff at Vaughn, and visitors to that building during the period that the infected employee was on site and symptomatic). Others who do not meet that criteria are not required to self-quarantine at this time. Experts believe secondary and tertiary contact present low risk.
As the situation unfolds in CPS and throughout the city, state and country, and more is learned, advice and guidance from the CDPH, Illinois Department of Public Health and the Center for Disease Control is likely to evolve. We will continue to keep you informed about any changes.
From Sunday, March 8:
- CPS has been advised by the Chicago Department of Public Health to keep Vaughn students and staff at home through March 18. This will ensure that 14 days have elapsed since the employee was last in the building.
- Employees from other schools who went to Vaughn (e.g. clinicians and case managers) during the period in which the employee was symptomatic are also being asked to remain home. They will be paid.
- The CDPH and CPS will be providing information on concerns about secondary and tertiary contact with students and staff at the school. The guidance is that there is no need for those individuals to remain home.
- As communicated on Friday, families and staff will be contacted by the CDPH. IMPORTANT: Due to the fragile medical conditions of many Vaughn students, contact with students and their families is being prioritized, then members. Please be patient if you are waiting to be contacted.
- With respect to testing, the CDPH advises that testing is only effective for people who are symptomatic (i.e., fever and/or respiratory issues). Consequently, only students and staff with symptoms will be tested. The CDPH will be working with student families and staff to monitor for symptoms
- The Vaughn building is being deep cleaned this weekend. Buses used for Vaughn are likewise being deep cleaned. An environmental cleaning contractor is doing that work.
We will keep you apprised of additional developments.
From Friday, March 6:
The Union was notified by Chicago Public Schools this evening of an occurrence of COVID-19 (coronavirus) at Vaughn Occupational High School on the Northwest Side. We are tracking developments regarding this situation and district management of the virus as it unfolds.
We urge educators, administrators, staff and students in all CPS school communities to continue to stay informed and take precautions regarding cleanliness. We also call on the district to rapidly ramp up its efforts to clean and disinfect all schools throughout the city to prevent the spread of the virus. We have been in communication with CPS about our concerns, and CPS has issued a set of protocols regarding prevention and preparedness to both parents and staff.
The main goal at this time is to continue to take common-sense steps to prevent spread of the virus. The most important aspects of prevention are:
- Wash your hands often.
- Stay home if you are sick.
- Send home students (and adults) who are showing signs of respiratory illness—in particular, fever, cough and shortness of breath.
The Union has ongoing concerns about cleanliness in schools, especially as it affects the capacity to prevent coronavirus transmission. Most critically, soap, hand disinfectant and warm, running water in school buildings are crucial to ongoing prevention measures.
If supplies of these items are inadequate in your school, please let us know by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
CPS has assured us that Vaughn faculty and staff will not face any financial hardship, and will be compensated during the quarantine. Parents and guardians affected by this outbreak may need to provide around-the-clock personal care for their children, so we urge Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Gov. J.B. Pritzker to ensure they can do so without employment risk or household hardship. No one should lose their job due to this crisis.
As the situation develops, we will continue to keep you updated.