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Superintendent: Several PUSD Staff Members Tested for COVID-19

Positive test result and exposure to others could result in school closures.

Published on Thursday, March 12, 2020 | 6:47 pm

[Updated 5 p.m.]  Late Thursday afternoon, PUSD Superintendent Brian McDonald announced that several PUSD staff members have been tested for the COVID-19.

If the test results are positive and expose others at school, the schools will be closed according to McDonald.

“We have reports of testing of several PUSD staff and are in ongoing communication with the City of Pasadena Public Health and L.A. County Public Health. As of this point, there are no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in PUSD,” wrote to PUSD families on Thursday.

The Board of Education is considering an emergency resolution at its meeting tonight. This action is being taken as a proactive and precautionary measure to allow PUSD quicker access to resources, provide greater flexibility in preparing and responding, and ease coordination with other agencies.

PUSD schools remain open.

The announcement came hours after City Hall officials and other venues announced the cancellation of major events, the Rose Bowl, the Pasadena Playhouse, Boston Court and the Pasadena Senior Center, announced on Thursday it will operate on a limited basis during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This center is the largest gathering place for older adults in the community. We want to balance providing vital services with protecting the people who pass through these doors every day,” said Akila Gibbs, executive director of the Pasadena Senior Center. “This center is a lifeline for older adults who are otherwise socially isolated and live alone. Not coming here can become a health issue for them, so we will be vigilant in staying in touch with them.”

Certain programs that allow for social distancing of three feet between each person will continue for now. These include weekday hot lunches, vital social services and certain classes and activities.

Classes and activities that have been put on hold are all clubs, a caregiver support group, tap dancing, international folk dance, open line dancing, ballroom dancing, ballroom dance party, Ready/Set/Bank, Braille class, Rediscovering Hope, tai chi, Alexander technique, chair aerobics, Scrabble, chess, Bolly X Lit, sewing, learning Spanish through acting, and social media/smart phones class.

Updates will be provided on the Pasadena Senior Center website on a regular basis, and an email that is distributed weekly to 5,000 members and stakeholders will include updates as well.

“We will monitor the situation closely and remain in regular contact with officials at the Pasadena Public Health Department,” Gibbs added. “Additional operational adjustments will be decided as needed.”

The Rose Bowl also announced that events would be canceled in March.

“At least through the end of March, minimum, there’s not going to be any events at the Rose Bowl,” said Daryl Dunn. “We’re going to be in daily contact with, as we are, with health officials and City officials about how to deal with going forward.

Earlier city officials announced the cancellation of at least 50 non-essential, city-sponsored events on Thursday.”

A spokesperson at the Pasadena Convention Center said many of their events have also been canceled.

“As the coronavirus continues to evolve in Los Angeles County, most of the events scheduled at the Pasadena Convention Center and Civic Auditorium through the end of March have contacted us to cancel or postpone to a future date.” said Jeanne Goldschmidt, executive director of the Pasadena Convention & Visitors Bureau. “We continue to monitor the situation closely and work directly with our clients, but we anticipate any remaining events, as it relates to our facilities, will cancel or postpone as well.”

The city does not run the Senior Center, the Rose Bowl or the Convention Center.

The events canceled by the city will be listed on the city’s website according to city spokesperson Lisa Derderian.

Those events and activities include recreational events and classes, educational and cultural events, census events, Community Police Academy Kids Safety Academy, Police Activities League (PAL) center activity, and community excursions.

City officials are not presently directing the cancellation of any events or activities sponsored by third parties, although the city is reaching out to the coordinators and providing current guidelines by the California Department of Public Health regarding mass gatherings, according to Derderian.

“The present situation with COVID-19 is unprecedented and the decision to cancel city-sponsored events is consistent with what appears to be emerging as the ‘best practice’ and the manner in which cities and other public and private institutions throughout the state are responding to COVID-19 public health concerns,” Derderian said. “The strategy is presently to limit the opportunity for people to come into contact with one another so as to limit the extent to which the COVID-19 virus can spread.

“This has been done in accordance with best practices we are seeing throughout the state of California.”

The Pasadena Playhouse and Boston Court have also canceled events, including the Celebrity Game Night fundraiser, scheduled for Saturday at the playhouse.

“The Playhouse is currently working to reschedule as many events as possible and will be monitoring any other orders requiring future postponements,” the Playhouse said in a statement. “We will update you more on that as we learn more information.

Danny Feldman and The Playhouse staff are very sad to share this news with you but optimistic that we will have an opportunity for you to enjoy more events at the Playhouse once life returns to normal. We will be in contact with more information as their plans solidify.”

The Pasadena Police Department Spokesperson William Grisafe said the department is prepared for the crisis.

“There is no higher priority to the Pasadena Police Department than both the safety of the community that we serve and our employees,” Grisafe said.

“We are in constant communication with our local health officials and are monitoring the developing COVID-19 situation closely.”

The department is also encouraging department employees to take steps to protect themselves from exposure. These steps include practicing proper and regular hand hygiene, refraining from touching their face, maintaining a safe distance from individuals when possible and utilizing Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) when contacting those who are symptomatic of the flu or other respiratory illness.

“The Police Department is in possession of N95 protective masks and gloves. Additional disinfecting wipes and hand sanitizer have been purchased for the increased cleaning of any surface or equipment that potentially contain the virus. In addition, the Police Department is prepared to staff an Emergency Operations Center in the event city leaders decide such action is necessary.

Out of an abundance of caution, The Police Department has made the decision to suspend all of our community programs and events until further notice.”

The city’s emergency operations center has been raised into a new state of readiness for possible activation.

The public health department’s disaster operation center has been activated at this time.

All city departments are reviewing their emergency operations plans and business continuity plans to maintain city services, particularly essential services: water, electricity, sanitation.

The city will continue to work with its utility customers to make reasonable payment arrangements should they have difficulty paying for services due to work stoppages or hardships caused.

On Wednesday the city announced that one Pasadena resident is infected with the virus. Meanwhile, test results on a Caltech student came back negative.

“We have been preparing and are ready to manage COVID-19 cases in Pasadena, in close coordination with our healthcare partners,” said Dr. Ying-Ying Goh, PPHD director and health officer. “We will continue to recommend our community implement individual and community mitigation measures to reduce the risk of spread of illness.”

It is not known exactly how many events at the Rose Bowl and the Convention Center will be impacted by the cancellation.

According to the latest update 127,800 people are infected with the virus, According to the NY Times, 4,718 people have died.

On Wednesday, President Trump said he was banning travel to and from Europe for 30 days.

“This is the most aggressive and comprehensive effort to confront a foreign virus in modern history,” Trump said. “I am confident that by counting and continuing to take these tough measures, we will significantly reduce the threat to our citizens, and we will ultimately and expeditiously defeat this virus.”

More than 1 million students are now at home. Some but not all of them are learning from home, Pasadena City College will soon be among them.

The Pasadena Unified School District will vote on a resolution Thursday night that would allow Superintendent Brian McDonald to take action during the crisis, including reassigning personnel from one site to another, signing contract for an outside cleaning company specializing in sanitizing possible biohazards, to closing a school under the advice of county health officials without calling emergency meetings of the board. The school board will monitor his decision.

At that meeting, the public has been asked to submit public comment in writing to the district, rather than in person. Comment will be included in the written record of the meeting.

Groups are asked to submit comments through one person during public comment, and the group support that person by signing a statement, rather than coming to the board room in a crowd.’’

The public was also asked to “engage in social distancing in the Boardroom, in the hallways, or in the overflow room,” and to “give sufficient space to other members of the public whenever possible.’’

The district moved to Scenario II in the state’s guidelines which calls for the cancellation of events, including graduations.

Atheltic events are being monitored.

All schools in the Pasadena Unified School District are in session.

Pasadena City College will move some classes to online during spring break.

Meanwhile classes at the ArtCenter have been suspended until March. Caltech will resume classes on March 30.

On Thursday morning, Mayor Terry Tornek said he was monitoring the situation from abroad.

“Delegation is safely in Dakar. Monitoring events in Pasadena closely,” the message said.

Tornek left on Tuesday for Pasadena’s sister city for African sister city. He will be there until March 19.

This is a breaking story and Pasadena Now will provide updates as they become available.

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