Health Board says do not panic after COVID-19 scare in Westfield school

WESTFIELD- The Board of Health March 11 urged the public to refrain from panic after the announcement that a teacher at Westfield Intermediate School was in contact with an individual who was exposed to COVID-19.

Superintendent Stefan Czaporowski said that the classroom of the teacher was immediately shut down and the area was disinfected. So far, no school closures are expected.

It was reported to me today that one of our staff members may have been in contact with someone that may have been exposed to COVID-19.  As a precaution, we shut down this classroom immediately and disinfected the area. This evening, our custodial staff is working to sanitize and disinfect the entire building so that we are ready to open tomorrow morning,” said Czaporowski Wednesday evening. “I want to reassure parents, students, and staff that we are working closely with the City of Westfield Health Department and the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.  We are following all their recommendations in this situation and will continue to do so moving forward.”

Westfield Health Director Joseph Rouse said that the teacher had been in contact with a person exposed to  one of the 95 presumptive positive cases of COVID-19 in Massachusetts. As of Wednesday evening when the Board of Health meeting took place, there were no confirmed or presumptive positive cases of COVID-19 in Hampden County.

“It was felt with the information that we have that nobody else has, that it wasn’t necessary [to close the school],” said Rouse.

Rouse said that current protocol from state and federal health officials dictates there is no justification for complete quarantine of a person unless they begin to show symptoms associated with the coronavirus. 

“When you maybe err on the side of caution too much, you can create what may be a panic situation,” said Rouse. 

Board of Health member Teresa Mitchell pointed out that a large percentage of those who have been infected with COVID-19 have exhibited mild symptoms.

“A lot of people have no symptoms or really mild symptoms, unless you are really old or have underlying diseases. The young haven’t been affected by it much. We need to let the community know that these are the facts and the panic needs to stop,” said Mitchell, “We will deal with it, we are not going to ignore it. But stop the panic.”

Rouse said that a letter would be sent out to the department heads of the city with the most up-to-date guidelines on how to handle COVID-19 and its spread. He said that the health department has been receiving calls from people planning to host events with large amounts of people asking if it is necessary to cancel. 

He said they advise people that events with 100 or more people anticipated should likely be cancelled or postponed. Events with 20 or more people where senior citizens are expected to attend are also recommended to be cancelled or postponed. 

Though there were no confirmed cases of the virus in Hampden County as of the Wednesday meeting, the members of the Board of Health agreed that it is inevitable that it will spread here.

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