Some Tri-State schools start Thanksgiving break early amid surge of viruses

WCPO 9 Cincinnati
WCPO 9 Cincinnati

Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana all have "high" or "very high" levels of respiratory viruses — including the flu, according to CDC data. Those high levels of illness even forced some local school districts to start Thanksgiving break early.

Talawanda School District was closed Monday and Tuesday due to illness among staff and students, as well as a shortage of substitute teachers. Students will return after the holiday break, but there is a concern that gatherings over the holiday may the spreading of viruses even worse.

"This, as I can recall, is the earliest I’ve seen a school close," said Dr. Stephen Feagins, Hamilton County Director of Public Health.

One mother in the Talawanda School District said she was thankful when she got the call from her daughter's school about the closure.

"I’m kind of glad they canceled for the last two days because I’d rather her make it out and other kids that didn't get it make it out without getting it before going and being around elderly relatives for Thanksgiving," she said.

Huffman said the district sent out a letter to parents earlier in the year explaining that situations like this may happen.

"Kind of warning everybody, especially with transportation shortages, that they wouldn't be able to give us a big heads up on cancellations like this," Huffman said. "But I do feel for the parents that don't have that good support system for having someone to step in like grandparent and watch the kids when they're off like this."

Talawanda wasn't the only district that closed. Lockland Schools closed last Friday.

Flu hospitalizations in Ohio are still much higher than average and they continue to climb. Another issue, Feagins said, is there is currently a shortage of Tamiflu.

"It's a little bit difficult to get, partly because we are early in the flu season, and they need to catch up with production,” Feagins said. "That's why washing your hands this thanksgiving is going to be more important than ever."

If you're hosting Thanksgiving, some precautions you can take include having hand sanitizer available for guests and paper towels for the bathroom, so guests aren’t using the same towel to dry their hands.

"Are you going to be around at-risk individuals, such as the elderly? You know we all have grandparents we want to be with," said Dr. Joseph Gastaldo with Ohio Health. "If you're going to be around other immunocompromised people, you may want to consider doing a rapid test right before you get together."

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