By Elysse James
Capistrano Unified hosted a webinar on Friday afternoon with a local pediatric doctor to share information and answer questions about the novel coronavirus.
“No students or staff members have tested positive and schools are closed,” said Capistrano Unified Chief Communications Officer Ryan Burris, who hosted the webinar with Communications Specialist Chelsea Turner.
Afif El-Hasan, MD, of the Department of Pediatrics for Southern California Kaiser Permanente walked viewers through what doctors currently know about the virus, what parents and children can do to keep themselves safe, and some coping mechanisms to help Capistrano Unified kids stay calm during this challenging time. El-Hasan is a pediatrician in San Juan Capistrano.
Information on the virus, El-Hasan said, is changing by the hour.
The district is keeping abreast of guidelines from authorities, including federal, state, and local government agencies as well as health departments, Burris said. Schools are anticipated to reopen on April 13.
COVID-19, El-Hasan shared, is part of a group of coronaviruses that are very common and make up about 10 percent to 30 percent of the common colds he sees every year.
“Our issue is this new one is one our immune system has never seen before,” he said. “That’s where the problem lies. None of us have an immunity and our bodies have never been exposed to it before.”
The novel coronavirus, he said, is designed like a ball of Velcro that latches onto cells in the upper and lower respiratory tract. Symptoms can range from a runny nose and cough to severe respiratory issues.
“The degree of symptoms does not correlate with how contagious they are,” El-Hasan said, though “most of the ability to spread illness is when a patient is symptomatic.”
The problem is that it can look like other viruses we deal with, such as the flu or the common cold, he said. “That’s one of the reasons we are so cautious with this.”
“While we’re battling COVID-19 these other viruses have not gone away,” he said. “We just have one more to add to the list of concerns that we have. All of these viruses are still present and we have had a very bad flu season.”
The virus can live on contaminated surfaces and objects, particularly on nonporous surfaces such as stainless steel (up to 2 days).
Currently a vaccine is about 12 to 18 months away, he said.
El-Hasan recommends that families stay inside to reduce the rate of infection. Children should avoid public swimming pools, public playgrounds, playdates, contact sports, movie theaters, restaurants, and amusement parks. However, there are many things that are recommended, such as playing in open spaces, puzzles, spring cleaning, board games, helping to clean the house and cook, and practicing their musical instruments.
He stressed staying home, practicing social distancing, washing hands often for at least 20 seconds, not touching their face, and sanitizing frequently used items.
For students who may have anxiety now, he suggests avoiding leaving the television on news channels, telling children they are home so they can protect themselves and others, telling children how much the adults enjoy having them at home, and using video chat programs to keep in touch with elderly and immunocompromised relatives.
More about how Capistrano Unified continues to prepare for and prevent COVID-19: