Watertown schools issue precautions as COVID, flu cases rise

WATERTOWN, N.Y. (WWTI) — The holidays have ended, but respiratory viruses are still in town.

This includes COVID-19, influenza and RSV. Cases of these viruses began to spike in Jefferson County before holiday celebrations began, according to Public Health.

“During the holidays, lots of people are gathering. And for some of these infections, people are actually contagious before they even have symptoms for one to two days before symptoms show,” Jefferson County Public Health Educator Lisa Lagos said. “So you might be feeling well and go to a party and then you don’t know that you’re contagious. You’re spreading those germs around, that family gathering.”

In light of rising flu and COVID-19 cases, the Watertown City School District issued a letter to students, staff and parents.

In the letter, District Superintendent Dr. Larry Schmiegel urged students and staff to avoid close contact, wash hands often, abide by cough and sneeze etiquette and stay home when sick.

All are similar to Jefferson County Public Health guidelines because germs can spread rapidly in schools.

“Especially for younger kids, they might not have the best hand hygiene. So practicing good hand washing with your kids is a great idea,” Lagos advised. “But also, if they’re not feeling well, you know, if they have a fever, if they’re coughing, have a runny nose. Try to keep them home if you can. So that way they’re not spreading germs to people in their classrooms.”

Lagos added that this will also help protect the entire community.

“Our main concern is hospitalizations. So if we can keep these infections, you know, at a minimum, as far as cases go, but also help people manage those at home and keep them out of the hospital, because if we have lots of flu patients, lots of COVID and RSV people in the hospital, we don’t want to run out of beds in the hospitals that we have,” Lagos expressed.

More virus prevention tips can be found on New York State’s COVID, influenza and RSV websites.

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