Top LA County school official says coronavirus preparations underway, warns against panic

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- Los Angeles County Superintendent of Schools Debra Duardo oversees 80 school districts and about two million students.

Duardo is leading the effort to make sure schools and families are up to date with the latest on the novel coronavirus, or COVID-19.

"We understand that the fear is real and that parents will do everything that they can to protect their children, but we also want to make sure that they realize that we don't want them to create any unnecessary fear or anxiety in their children," Duardo told Eyewitness News.

While Duardo discourages panic, she's also taking the warning from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention seriously. The agency stressed it's not about if it spreads in the U.S., but when.

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"My immediate thought was that we need to start thinking about in the event that the CDC does recommend school closures, that we're prepared to think about how we're going to provide online instruction, send packets home to children or think of alternative ways to ensure that we don't have a disruption of learning," Duardo said.

Another practical step schools can take is prioritize good hygiene.

"Just reminding people that we need to practice safe policies in terms of good hygiene, reminding people to wash their hands," Duardo said.

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What health experts know so far indicates children are less likely to become infected.

"We know that the people that have really had the most severe reaction to this virus and the people that have died have been people that are senior or people that have had existing chronic conditions," she said. "And so far, children, especially school-aged children, are not at high risk for getting this."

Duardo reminds adults to model a healthy approach.

"That their children are looking to the adults around them to measure how safe they are," she said. "If parents are panicking, or teachers are panicking, then it creates some real anxiety for children."
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