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DPH and DOE Commissioners' Notice About School Preparedness for Pandemic Influenza

Dear Superintendent:

On February 7th, Governor Romney sponsored a statewide summit on pandemic influenza planning and response that was co-sponsored by U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Michael Leavitt and attended by several hundred Massachusetts leaders in public health and health care, public safety, education, business, municipal government, and the media. Leadership from associations representing key sectors of the primary and secondary education community were invited and participated in the daylong event held in Boston.

During the summit, the Governor reviewed the planning that has gone into preparing for a flu pandemic thus far, and outlined a path to help us move forward locally and regionally in this important effort. Key to the realization of the Governor's plan is a series of Regional Pandemic Planning Summits across the Commonwealth this spring involving local and regional leaders from emergency preparedness (including local health, police, fire, and other emergency response entities), education, business and industry, the faith communities, and healthcare. Lieutenant Governor Healey, along with the Secretaries of Health and Human Services and Public Safety, will provide leadership and coordination for these sessions.

It is critical that we prepare not only statewide but also locally and regionally for a potential pandemic. In Massachusetts alone, over the course of 6-8 weeks, based on an attack rate of 30 percent, 2 million people may become ill, 80,000 may require hospitalization, and 20,000 people may die. Latest projections envision up to a 40 percent reduction in the workforce in general - including the schools and the vendors that serve them - in two disease waves of 6-8 weeks - for a period of two weeks (in a worst case scenario). In addition to the possibility that schools may have to be closed for some period, they will likely be short-staffed while being looked to for space and manpower needed to respond to shortages in critical care capacity.

To ensure continuation of the critical services you and the schools in your district provide to Massachusetts' children, families, and communities, we are asking that you, as the recognized education leader in your community or region, partner with us in the statewide contingency planning effort, and assemble a district-wide team that will prepare a flu pandemic Continuity of Operations Plan (COOP) for the schools in your community or region. We see this as an essential adjunct to your district's Multi-Hazard Evacuation Plan (St. 2000, c. 159, s. 363).

Very shortly, you will be receiving a personal invitation to a Regional Pandemic Planning Summit in your area. It is very important that you attend this meeting in order to learn about our statewide and regional emergency preparedness planning efforts and begin to identify the specific issues school districts in your area may face in the event of an influenza pandemic. The regional summit will also be an opportunity to find out how to get continuity of operations planning going in your district and how to connect with local and regional pandemic preparedness activities.

Going forward, we see this regional summit as an opportunity to inform you about the flu pandemic and emergency preparedness planning that is already happening in your region, and to enlist your leadership and support and solicit your full participation in local and regional pandemic preparedness activities. Following the summits, we will be working closely with the Massachusetts School Superintendents Association and all of you (through the superintendent roundtables) to assist you meeting this challenge.

Prior to attending your Regional Summit, we urge you to familiarize yourself with the Department of Public Health's Influenza Pandemic Planning Flyer at MDPH Pandemic Planning Flyer 01/2006 Download PDF Document and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's sample checklist for school districts at School District (K-12) Pandemic Influenza Planning Checklist View HTML page Download PDF Version.

We value and appreciate your involvement in this important task, and look forward to seeing you at your area's Summit. Your invitation to a regional summit will be arriving within the month, and we plan to stay in regular contact with you as the planning process proceeds. Please feel free to contact Department of Education Associate Commissioner, John Bynoe, at jbynoe@doe.mass.edu or Department of Public Health Assistant Commissioner, Kathy Atkinson, at Kathy.Atkinson@state.ma.us if you have any questions.

Sincerely,

David P. Driscoll
Commissioner of Education

Paul J. Cote, Jr.
Assistant Secretary for Health
Commissioner of Public Health



Last Updated: March 23, 2006
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