Coronavirus Update | Fire Officials and Superintendent Make Efforts to Educate Community

With more developments everyday, including an official declaration for a State of Emergency by California state's Governor Gavin Newson, City of South Pasadena officials continue to inform the public about coronavirus prevention

PHOTO: Eric Fabbro | News | (L-R) SPUSD Superintendent, Geoff Yantz and SPFD Division Chief, Eric Zaneston

Monday, March 9: Superintendent Geoff Yantz sends his fourth written message on the topic Monday since the outbreak began. Each day Yantz is tasked with new questions that may arise.

With ever-changing global concerns of the coronavirus, South Pasadena Unified School District Superintendent Geoff Yantz continues to provide informational updates to parents with children attending one of the district’s five campuses.

On Monday, he sent out is third written message on the topic since the outbreak began. Each day, noted Yantz in his correspondence, the district is tasked with new questions that may arise.

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“Our top priority continues to be the health and safety of our students and staff,” he wrote in his March 9 to the SPUSD community. “We take this responsibility very seriously and continuously work with local public health agencies to obtain the most up-to-date information for our community.”

With spring break and possible family vacations approaching, “families should be aware that COVID-19 is continuing to spread and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has issued level 3 travel warnings (avoid non-essential travel) for China, Iran, Italy, and South Korea,” Yantz wrote. “For the safety of the South Pasadena community, SPUSD is requiring students who have traveled to China, Iran, Italy or South Korea to self-isolate for 14 days after returning to the United States before returning to school. For any students that will be self-isolated, parents may request an Independent Study agreement and students may be placed on Independent Study for the duration of the self-isolation.”

He insists a student’s family member who has returned from China, Iran, Italy or South Korea, should follow the direction from the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health and self-isolate for 14 days, noting: “The student is permitted to attend school.”

Yantz said he fully understands community concerns about the health and safety of students. “Some families have asked about keeping a child home based on the fear of contracting COVID-19 at school,” he wrote. “Per Education Code, we are unable to mark an absence as excused for this reason. Our normal protocol remains in place. If a student is out for an extended period of time, a doctor’s note may be required. Any absence due to quarantine or illness will be excused.”

The superintendent said all South Pasadena schools are stepping up cleaning and sanitizing efforts in classrooms and high traffic areas.

The following steps have been taken, according to Yantz:

  • Custodial staff increased disinfecting measures on all topical surfaces including equipment at the school sites.  Additional temporary custodial staff is also serving as a deeper level of support and effort.  If you see a custodian, thank a custodian for all the extra work completed during this time.
  • Teachers and site staff continue to remind students to keep hands away from mouth/face and wash hands, both at school and at home, more frequently in order to prevent potential contamination.
  • Staff and students are reminded to stay home if they experience symptoms of illness and/or fever and to remain home until they are symptom-free for at least 24 hours.

While the risk of COVID-19 transmission remains low, “we continue to work with the following agencies to gather information and guidance,” wrote Yantz, saying the best, most comprehensive information regarding the virus is available at:

  1. Los Angeles County Department of Public Health
  2. Los Angeles County Office of Education
  3. California Department of Public Health
  4. California Department of Education
  5. S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

In his letter, Yantz concluded by providing a link to an article from the Child Mind Institute – “Talking to Kids About the Coronavirus.” It can be found HERE

“We work throughout the year to promote healthy schools,” wrote Yantz. “Should a confirmed case of COVID-19 exist in South Pasadena, we will work in consultation with the expert government agencies listed above to take the necessary next steps. This situation will be handled on a case-by-case basis.”

Friday, March 6: Fire Department officials impart important health information to the public during last Wednesday’s South Pasadena City Council meeting. Do what you can to reduce the spread of the disease is the key message

It’s a situation that is rapidly evolving with information changing hourly, explained South Pasadena Fire Chief Paul Riddle, as he addressed the local City Council Wednesday night with an update on the COVID-19 coronavirus that is taking its toll worldwide.

Riddle has been part of teleconferences and briefings with LA County health professionals, joining other city officials at the key update sessions in recent days since the outbreak of the disease began.

The coronavirus presentation was moved from No. 18 on the council agenda to No. 1 “to ensure the maximum number of people hear the information,” explained South Pasadena Mayor Robert Joe before Riddle introduced SPFD Division Chief Eric Zanteson to provide a 25-minute detailed report about coronavirus.

“Essentially, the message I want to spread tonight, no pun intended, whatever we can do to reduce the spread, that’s really become our primary goal,” said Zanteson. “That’s why this has become such a focus in the media and why public health has presented so many options for community involvement. Reducing the spread is going to assist us in isolating this disease.”

Zanteson explained that the virus has become so newsworthy because the strain spreads easily, can lead to a high number of infected individuals, and impact schools, businesses, government and the healthcare system.

In China, where the outbreak of the disease originated, “hospitals [have] become overwhelmed and they are unable to care for patients,” said Zanteson. “If we’re ever to reduce the spread through good hygiene we can essentially keep things a little bit more normal.” 

He stressed that city officials are staying informed regarding the disease through daily briefings with County of Los Angeles Public Health and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) updates.

Riddle and Zanteson’s comments came following California Governor Gavin Newsom declaring a state of emergency in connection with the coronavirus outbreak. Earlier in the day, the County of Los Angeles called for the same action.

“Things are evolving quickly and our residents know that South Pasadena is highly engaged,” said Joe. “The city manager, fire chief and I participated in a number of meetings with the LA County Health Department.”

Wednesday’s report on the virus by South Pasadena Fire Department officials comes after the number of U.S. cases of COVID-19 increased to 129 and the death toll ticked up to 11, including the first fatality outside Washington state, which also declared a state emergency. As of Thursday morning, more than 97,000 people around the world have been affected and the disease has killed over 3,350.

The signs of coronavirus, pointed out Zanteson, “are flu-like symptoms,” he said, “with fever, respiratory illness associated with a cough. Severity is typically low. It’s not an overwhelming disease most of the time.”

Fever, cough and difficulty breathing are the obvious symptoms of the disease. Health experts say people who have been diagnosed with coronavirus have reported signs of the disease may appear in as few as two days and as long as 14 after exposure.

The SPPD division chief said the coronavirus spreads through coughing and sneezing, touching a surface with the virus on it, then touching your mouth, nose or eyes.

“Hand washing is crucial,” he stressed a number of times during his presentation.

Zanteson urged the community to:

• Stay home if you’re sick.

• Practice cough/sneeze etiquette.

• Practice “social distancing” – stay back of people at a distance of about 6-feet when coughing.

• Minimize handshaking when possible.

• Clean surfaces like door handles, hand rails, cell phones.

• Reconsider hugging (other than loved ones).

• Call your doctor – don’t visit unless necessary.

• Don’t use the emergency room or urgent care unless necessary.

• No need to panic in terms of supplies, Zanteson reassuring the public that Costco, Target and Walmart will continue to restock shelves.

It is not necessary to reduce activities like going to restaurants and movies at this time, noted Zanteson, and attend public events.

“Just use good hygiene,” he insisted.

However, Zanteson said residents should prepare for disruptions if the virus becomes worse, spreading more frequently from person-to-person. In that case, schools may close and events may need to be cancelled if the situation changes.

“Let’s do our part to not allow that to happen,” said Zanteson.

He urged the public to have a plan in place for disruption to the daily schedule, adding that it’s important to have a standard supply of food and medications.

“Prepare, prepare, prepare,” declared Zanteson.

Surgical masks, worn by many since the outbreak, “do not reduce the risk,” he said.

The City of South Pasadena is collaborating with local school district officials, LA County Department of Public Health and the State Board of Education to determine if and when closure of schools would be required.

“At this point it’s business as usual for them,” Zanteson noted.

Coronavirus COVID-19 resources:

CDC Website

LA County Department of Public Health

LA County 211