We have been carefully monitoring the news regarding monkeypox. First and foremost, KIPP DC is committed to maintaining a safe school environment and making our community aware of precautions they can take.
While monkeypox is spreading, it is not cause for panic. Experts believe that even in the current context, it remains largely contained and is unlikely to have as large an impact on public health as COVID has. We also wanted to ensure our community was aware of DC Health’s current eligibility guidelines for the monkeypox vaccine, which recently changed to include a broader range of individuals.
Is monkeypox a threat to school operations like COVID-19 was? Not at this time. These reasons make monkeypox less concerning than COVID-19 was to our overall school community:
- Monkeypox is less transmissible. Current data indicates that monkeypox primarily spreads from close skin-to-skin contact, through coughing and sneezing, prolonged, face-to-face contact or during intimate physical contact, or by touching or sharing infected items like clothing and bedding. This makes Covid-level rates of community spread unlikely.
- Monkeypox is not a new virus. Monkeypox (a virus similar to the smallpox virus, but with less severe symptoms) has been circulating in humans for decades. The first human case of monkeypox was detected in 1970.
- Vaccines are already available for monkeypox. A vaccine called Jynneos was approved in 2019 to protect against smallpox and monkeypox, and is currently available for people 18 and older. This past June, federal health officials made the national stockpile of the vaccine available to states, who can now offer it to anyone exposed to the virus. The vaccine can work both before and after exposure to monkeypox.
How is monkeypox spread? According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), monkeypox is spread through:
- Direct contact with an infectious rash, scabs, or body fluid.
- Respiratory secretions during prolonged, face-to-face contact or during intimate physical contact.
- Touching objects or fabrics (such as clothing or linens) that previously touched the rash or body fluids of someone with monkeypox.
What are the symptoms of monkeypox? Monkeypox causes a distinct rash and other symptoms, such as fever, headache, swollen lymph nodes and fatigue. It can spread from the time symptoms start until the rash has fully healed and a fresh layer of skin has formed. It can be acquired by all people, regardless of gender identity or sexual orientation. For more information on monkeypox, please read the DC’s Health’s Guidance.
What precautions can I take? You can take the following steps to reduce the likelihood of transmission of monkeypox in our schools.
- Stay home when you are sick
- Avoid people who are sick with monkeypox symptoms
- Wash your hands frequently or use alcohol-based hand sanitizer
- Avoid close physical contact in schools
- Clean frequently touched surfaces
- Get vaccinated if recommended by your healthcare provider (see current DC Health eligibility)
It is critical that students and staff do not report to school while they are experiencing symptoms of the monkeypox virus. Currently, the CDC recommends that individuals remain at home until the rash has healed, all scabs have fallen off, and a fresh layer of intact skin has formed.
What precautions is KIPP DC taking? Many of the safety measures that KIPP DC has implemented from the COVID-19 pandemic will help mitigate the spread of monkeypox for both staff and students. This includes:
- Advising individuals who feel unwell to stay home
- Encouraging individuals to wear face masks
- Encouraging frequent hand washing and sanitizing
- Prohibiting the sharing of nap mats and blankets
- Frequent cleaning and sanitizing of high touch spaces
- Additional staffing to monitor students and staff who are feeling unwell at school
- Providing wipes and hand sanitizer for classroom and in communal spaces
We will continue to consult with public health experts and adjust course if advised to do so.
What does a staff member do if they have monkeypox?If a staff member tests positive for monkeypox, they should refrain from reporting to work and inform their manager, and use the time off options (sick leave) outlined in the employee handbook. They will need to provide human resources with medical documentation for their absence as well as documentation once ready to return to work. If they need additional time beyond their sick days or have any questions about these options, they should contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
What does a student do if they have monkeypox? If a student tests positive for monkeypox, they should refrain from reporting to school and their family should alert their child’s principal. The student will need to provide medical documentation for their absence as well as documentation clearing them for a return to school. School leaders should alert their school leader manager if a child in their school tests positive for monkeypox.
The safety and health of our students and staff is our number one priority. As we learn new information on best practices and information from DC Health, we will pass that along to our community.