Schools around Tri-Cities deep clean while closed for illness


The flu outbreak closed several schools in the Tri-Cities area Monday. So far with flu season in its peak, the illness closed down schools in Sullivan, Hawkins and Greene Counties in Tennessee and Scott County in Virginia. The next step is for schools to take extra precautions to ward off the spread of the disease.

The closures came after a high number of school absences. The next step is for schools to take extra precautions to ward off the spread of the disease.

In Sullivan County at the peak, the absentee rate reached 12-percent throughout Sullivan County. Sullivan North High School was one of those hit hardest with 100 students out sick Friday.

"That's very significant in an environment when you're trying to teach students and make sure they learn what they need to learn everyday," said principal Brent Palmer.

There were also 11 teachers absent, something the school just wasn't prepared for.

"It becomes very difficult," Palmer said. "We end up doing a lot of different things. Our teachers that are here pulled double duty on those days."

Now custodial crews are spending two days going over every inch of every surface.

"We're using products that we wouldn't normally use all over the building," Palmer said. "We're using something called Virex which is something that hospitals also use." He said they're going over frequently-used surfaces, like railings, twice.

In Hawkins County, the schools closed following a growing number of absences, hitting schools on the east side of the county hardest. In Bulls Gap, about 20-percent of students and teachers were absent at the peak.

The Sullivan County Regional Health Director, Dr. Stephen May, said disinfecting surfaces is important but giving students space from each other is the most effective aspect of the school closure.

"The main spreader are other children that are ill and lack," Dr. May said.

He points out the most effective ways to limit the spread of illness include covering a cough, not touching your eyes, and washing your hands often.

He also said it's not too late to get a flu vaccine.

Greene and Scott County schools will reopen Tuesday. Tri-Cities Christian Schools, also in Sullivan County, along with the Kingsport Girls and Boys Club also closed and will remain closed Tuesday.

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