The Bristol-Burlington Health District said there are “no concerns at Bristol Central High School” Monday afternoon, after recommending about 20 students and teachers stay home from school for the day. The recommendation came amidst concerns over the Novel Coronavirus spreading.
The group of students and faculty were returning from a school trip to Italy at the same time that news broke that the virus had spread to the European country. Italy has reported at least 222 cases of coronavirus and six deaths from the illness. It is the largest number of coronavirus cases outside of Asia.
According to the Director of Health for the Bristol-Burlington Health District, Marco Palmeri, he was contacted by the Bristol Public Schools Superintendents Office Sunday asking for guidance.
Palmeri said that he contacted the state department of health and reached out to federal agencies for input. The CDC had not yet issued and travel recommendations for Italy. The health district made the decision to recommend the students and faculty members who were on the trip stay home on Monday.
“It’s best to recommend because we did not have evidence to base it on to withhold anyone from school or work,” said Palmeri.
According to the superintendent’s office, the “majority” of people followed that recommendation, but not all.
The health district changed its recommendation Monday afternoon. Palmeri sent out a notice to parents after he received new information from the CDC. In accordance with the CDC’s guidelines, Palmeri is recommending people who were on the trip stay home only if they are feeling ill.
According to the CDC, only travelers returning from Italy in the past 14 days who feel sick (with fever, cough, or difficulty breathing) should stay home.
“This information may change as early as tomorrow, not at fault of anyone, this is a very fluid situation,” said Palmeri.
The health district would not comment when asked if they have received reports of anyone who was on the trip feeling ill. Palmeri did say that they are not monitoring anyone and they have not asked anyone specifically to stay home from school tomorrow.
Palmeri said he has answered dozens of phone calls Monday, some from concerned parents.
Patricia Miller has two students at Bristol Central High School, one of whom takes Italian with some of the students who were on the trip. She raised concerns over the health district not mandating the students and teachers stay home.
“I just hope that they are proactive in who the students are, the chaperones were, they stay on top of it making sure they are healthy,” said Miller. “If one of them gets sick and goes to a local walk-in clinic, or a hospital, now you have another problem.”
Palmeri said that he is “comfortable” with the health district’s decision and that he is more concerned about the flu.