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Putting Assets Into Action: Ready, set, flu?

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By The Staff

This week we look at the Asset category of Boundaries and Expectations. I’ve heard from a great deal of you this week about how you enjoyed making the connection not just to youth, but to the office, co-workers or the community in general.

So this week, we’ll talk about Boundaries and Expectations and how they relate to the flu. The last week and a half have been a great trial run for us. Oh, once we pass the hump, please don’t get too comfy that our time with the flu is done.

This week was a great learning experience about not only our expectations of the school district, but of the expectations of people for their own preparedness for the impending epidemic.

Emergency Manager Phil Taylor and Public Health Nurse Megan Pfeffer have been banging the drum for years and this past week we tested the system.

There were many people wondering when we would close the schools with so many absences, but the truth is the large numbers were mainly at the middle school. Guess what, part of that reason is because the numbers at the middle school triple or quadruple compared to the elementary schools.

There are a few other differences we don’t often think about. When shopping for school supplies, the list of anti-bacterial wipes wasn’t on the list for middle school and high school students. It sounds simple, but what if we all donated a bottle of hand sanitizer or a tube of anti-bacterial wipes to those two schools?

When the flu hit the fan, those that work in the schools couldn’t get to the store fast enough to buy some Lysol. My personal approach to Lysol distribution was to hit every doorknob, light switch and cupboard handle that was frequently used in the house. Daily I would take one of those anti-bacterial wipes to every electronic remote, gaming control and computer keyboard in sight.

I’m not sure if it helped, but only one in five suffered the dreaded flu last week, and yes, I knocked on wood right after I typed that line, well okay, I knocked on my head, which is just as good.

One change for middle and high school students is that there aren’t a dozen people on a daily basis reminding you to wash your hands or providing those little wipes to you before you eat a snack or lunch.

Two rules that exist at elementary level, even if not formally stated are, no sharing food and no kissing. These may seem like small things, but as youth grow older, we forget to remind them about the simple basics that we may have told them 10 times a day when they were younger.

We need to think about the expectations for ourselves if no one is there to tell us daily. I get tired of hearing that the vaccine is coming in mid-October and that we should be washing our hands and humming the Happy Birthday song while killing those germs.

One thing I don’t get tired of is hearing someone, anyone telling caregivers to keep sick children home. It sounds like common sense, but it is an uncommon virtue these days. I see sick adults coming to work because we can’t live without them, but that can be the beginning of the end when it comes to spreading the virus, whether it is influenza, swine flu, bird flu or any one of a hundred other things.

This morning while out shopping, I saw several adults cough and sneeze into the air. There was no attempt to put up a hand or shield the spew with the crook of an elbow or shoulder. Sometimes I wonder how do we evolve as species?

As we begin to approach the big flu season, if you can’t think enough of yourself, think of others around you. The elderly will be at huge risk this season if there isn’t enough vaccine to go around. Parents should be extra careful taking young babies out in public or letting well meaning adults pass them around.

Our expectations of the schools may be high, but I wish everyone could walk a day in the shoes of the custodial staff. I’d even like that to be a regular day, let alone during the last week and a half. The school custodians have worked over time not only to do their regular work, but to go the extra mile sanitizing desks, floors and water fountains.

I’ve heard community members ask, “Why don’t they just shut the water fountains off?” The truth is as well intentioned as that may be, not every caregiver will make sure kids take a bottle of water from home, and some don’t even send lunch. The weather is too hot at the end of August and hydration is too important.

We can’t rely on someone else to solve the problem; we need to think on our feet. So now that we’ve had a taste of the future, has it changed our habits? Are your shelves stocked with the important things you might need during an epidemic? Do you at least have a thermometer, some ginger ale, fever reducer and cold medicine?

If not, there’s no better time than the present because if there’s a serious run on the infrastructure, those relievers might not be available on a whim. I’ve always joked that at my house, we could eat for thirty days without going to the grocery store although it would primarily be dry cereal.

We’ve actually spent the bulk of time talking about the youth, but if those 140 absences came in the form of missing staff, we’d be in a lot of trouble. The system doesn’t work without instructional assistants, bus drivers, lunch ladies and more. There’s a special place in Heaven for the school nurses who must have immunity beyond all others.

Monday I’ll be donating my bottle of hand sanitizer to the middle school. What is the worst that could happen, secondary schools might receive a few hundred bottles to help keep students and staff a bit safer throughout the flu season? This idea could create one inexpensive movement that could make a difference. Will you be sending one too?

Bernadette Lauritzen is the Assets In Action Coordinator for Los Alamos. The program is sponsored by the Juvenile Justice Advisory Board, the Chamber of Commerce, AM 1490, KRSN and the Los Alamos Monitor. Your comments are welcome at 661-4846.