Posted: Thursday, April 30th, 2009
As swine flu continues to tally new cases each day, it’s impacting not only those who come down with the H1N1 virus, but also over 150,000 schoolchildren whose schools have been shut down due to confirmed or suspected cases. And many parents who are already concerned about the virus have another problem to contend with: taking care of kids who would otherwise be at school during the five or more days schools are recommended to stay shuttered after a student falls ill.
In Fort Worth, Texas, the entire school district closed down today, leaving about 80,000 students from 140 schools at home. Fort Worth schools are expected to stay closed for at least 10 days.
“Our public health officials have recommended that schools with confirmed or suspected cases of this flu strongly consider temporarily closing,” President Obama said yesterday, just hours after the World Health Organization raised the Pandemic Alert to Level 5, indicating that a pandemic may be imminent. “And if more schools are forced to close,” Obama continued, “we’ve recommended that both parents and businesses think about contingency plans if their children do have to stay home.”
Parents should consider staying home themselves or finding a babysitter or relative to watch the kids, and should not place their children in a day care center, which could mean quicker transmission of the virus between children. Vice President Biden urged yesterday that “a parent whose child’s school is closed out of a precaution or because there’s been a confirmed case of flu should not take the child then to a day care center. They’re going to have to take them home.” He also urged employers to be considerate of the special circumstances. “The hope is that the employers will be generous in terms of how they treat that employee’s necessary action of taking that child home and not being at work,” he said.
Still, most schools remain open, and while officials urge parents to keep sick kids at home, they ask that healthy students go to class as usual, while taking the following precautions: minimize exposure, wash hands frequently, and cover up coughs and sneezes.