Tobago OSH officer: School covid19 plan is a work in progress

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Signal Hill Secondary students wash their hands as they enter the school compound. FILE PHOTO –

The infectious disease response management plan for managing covid19 in schools is a work in progress, says Occupational Health and Safety Officer II at the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) Division of Education, Research and Technology, Brian Patrick.

Patrick spoke at a joint news conference hosted virtually by the division and the Division of Health, Wellness and Social Protection on Monday.

He said the unit has developed a 21-page infectious disease response management plan across each division of the assembly and was also asked to devise a specific management plan related to activities in each particular division.

“In education, we would have worked on a particular document that allows us to manage covid19 in the schools. It helps us to have a policy direction and have a uniformed approach to managing the covid19 in the different schools.”

He said the document focuses on all levels of schools – Early Childhood Care and Education, primary schools, secondary schools as well as special education schools.

The document also incorporates preventative measures.

“And these measures speak to compound entry, physical distancing where possible, promotion of signage in the schools to ensure that the information is communicated at all times with regard to preventative measures in the classrooms. The use of face masks is also placed in the document to encourage that protection as well.”He added that it has been recognised that the document is a work in progress and as such they will continue working to develop it. He said to date, it has been issued to the schools, but some feedback was received. He also said that his unit will be visiting the different schools and explaining the document so that the rudiments are fully understood. He said the document also speaks to specific response procedures.

Secretary of the division Zorisha Hackett said the document provides clarity for dealing with the sick children.

“The ill child is identified at the school; they’re removed from the general population and the parent collects the child or the child is observed to be ill at home and kept at home. The principal is notified of the child’s condition by the teacher or parent.

“The principal notifies the education health unit. The principal also collects information with respect to close contacts of the ill student. The education health unit contacts the ill child or the suspected case and all close contacts at school to schedule contact testing at the green room (Fort King George) on the next working day.”

She said parents must have an appointment to take their child to the green room as walk-in clients will not be facilitated. She said quarantine orders are issued to both parents and students at the time of testing at the green room.

“Fitness letters are issued via WhatsApp or e-mail to the relevant school’s principal and parents either at the end of the quarantine period if the child tests positive for covid19 or if the ill child tests negative for covid19 and is immediately released from quarantine.”

County Medical Officer of Health Dr Tiffany Hoyte said her unit is working closely with the Education Division’s health unit as they seek to ensure the safety of the school population.