BAY AREA SCHOOLS REOPEN WEDNESDAY – UNDER NEW FLU GUIDELINES

Bay Area schools that have closed due to flu-fighting efforts are scheduled to reopen Wednesday as state and federal health officials no longer advise canceling class if a student has the H1N1 flu virus.

Confirmed cases of the H1N1 flu virus, or swine flu, have popped up in most Bay Area counties. Last week, state and federal health departments advised school closures of 10 to 14 days if any students were suspected of having this novel flu strain.

However, as the virus proves to be mild, public health agencies in Alameda, Santa Clara, Contra Costa and Marin counties are reversing course and reopening schools.

Dr. Mark Horton, director of the California Department of Public Health, announced new school-related recommendations today, saying classes should go on, but any students with flu-like symptoms should stay home, or be sent home, for at least seven days.

“We’ve entered a new phase of response to the novel H1N1 outbreak,” Horton said in a statement. He emphasized that children and adults should still be vigilant in using “good cough and hand hygiene etiquette.”

At least 14 schools were closed across the Bay Area as of Monday.

Today these schools announced plans to reopen as soon as possible.

In Contra Costa County, the five elementary schools already closed will reopen Wednesday, spokeswoman Kate Fowlie said. These include Coyote Creek Elementary in San Ramon, Highlands Elementary School in Pittsburg, Brentwood Elementary School in Brentwood, Lone Tree Elementary in Antioch and Shore Acres Elementary in Bay Point.

Two new probable cases were reported today at schools in Brentwood and San Ramon, officials said, but both schools will remain open.

Contra Costa County made the decision in the wake of new guidelines from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, county health officer Dr. William Walker said in a statement.

In Marin County, health officials announced today that Tamalpais High School will also reopen Wednesday.

In Santa Clara County, top public health officer Dr. Marty Fenstersheib today recommended the county’s seven closed schools also reopen Wednesday. These include Branham High School in San Jose, Challenger School’s San Jose campus, Daves Avenue Elementary in Monte Soreno, Delphi Academy in Santa Clara, Ruskin Elementary in San Jose and two preschools, the Sunshine School and Elan Espirit.

Berkeley’s Malcolm X Elementary School will also resume classes Wednesday, according to the city’s public health division.

Across the Bay Area, educators noted they would remain vigilant for signs of flu among the student body.

The Solano County Board of Supervisors declared a local state of emergency today, according to the Solano County Public Health Department, after one probable swine flu case tested negative, and another probable case was identified. Alameda County has also announced a public health state of emergency, joining other Bay Area counties, county health department spokeswoman Sherri Willis said today.

The local emergency proclamation gives the public health department greater flexibility in how it uses it staff, according to Solano County health officials, and could help the county be reimbursed if the federal government decides to mobilize funding for fighting the virus.

See Related: SWINE FLU

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