March 13, 2020
Dear Spirit of Math Community,
I am writing to you today regarding the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and what Spirit of Math is doing in response.
The safety and education of all our students has been, and remain, our two highest priorities. We are aware that there are many parents who, understandably, are deeply concerned about the well-being of their children and loved ones. From the onset of the novel coronavirus, we have been carefully monitoring updates by the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) and the World Health Organization (WHO).
Spirit of Math students come from diverse backgrounds, with many families who travel throughout the world. This makes it a wonderful school to study and share experiences. However the Government of Canada has instilled comprehensive travel protocols to help ensure the safety of all travellers and residents. I request that you read this carefully.
In Canada, the efforts to stop the spread have been extremely rigorous, and some parts of Canada have yet to report any cases. In Pakistan, the reported COVID-19 cases are stated to be minimal at this time. The Ontario government and the Independent School System in Canada have just announced an extension of March break by 2 weeks for all Ontario schools, and many school systems in Pakistan have extended their spring break, or cancelled classes for the remainder of the year.
The education of students is crucial, and we are putting in great efforts to ensure that the interruption is as minimal as possible. We also realize that there is a possibility of workplaces and schools being asked to close for a longer period of time, and that some parents are already not feeling comfortable having their children attend any public spaces, such as Spirit of Math. To accommodate this, our Spirit of Math “behind-the-scenes” training and curriculum teams in Canada are putting together an online alternative that students who cannot attend in-person classes, may enroll. These teams of people are those who have either trained all the teachers in all your campuses, or assisted in updating the curriculum, exams and contests. They may also be your regular teachers. I am also personally working to help these teams of people to reduce the educational impact. More information on how this is done, will be sent to you next week.
In areas where the government school systems have been closed, Spirit of Math campus locations will be closed, and will be offering online classes to those students until schools re-open. A letter outlining all the details will be sent next week.
For areas where classes will continue to run in a physical location, your child has an option to attend in person, or participate in an online class. At the physical locations we are taking all possible measures to mitigate risk and want to let you know that we have protocols in place throughout Spirit of Math regardless of the location.
To help keep our campuses safe, we wipe down all the chairs, door handles, desks and other furniture in all the classrooms, before and after each class. This means that students entering in the second class need to wait until the disinfecting has been completed. In addition, before students enter the campus, and afterwards, the campuses are wiped down with disinfecting wipes, and all staff are instructed to wash their hands when they enter the facility, before and after every class.
To ensure that we reduce the risk of transmission we request all students and accompanying adults to do the following when entering a campus:
- Go directly to the washroom and wash their hands for between 20 to 30 seconds. (This is before they enter a classroom.) Then disinfect their hands with a disinfectant that we will have available for the students.
- If any person (student or accompanying adults) have any cold or flu symptoms they are to do the following:
- Please stay home.
- Your teacher will be emailing you and following-up with you to ensure that studies can be maintained. You will also have the online option to study.
- Anyone may choose to wear a mask, as they wish. We will not stop any person from wearing one, and we will not assume that a person is sick because of the mask.
- Any person who has traveled outside Canada in the last 14 days to an infected country:
- They are to stay at home for 14 days
- Your teacher will be getting hold of you to help with your material and you have an option for the online courses.
Each student will be given or can pick up all their student sheets to the end of the year at their campus locations. If the campus is closed, then specific times for pick-up will be sent to you. Therefore, if any person wants to stay home, they will have all the materials.
As a community, we are all very concerned, and for some of you this has affected your families in many areas of the world. This is a time to demonstrate compassion and understanding, so that our students may learn how to live with compassion and learn how to work through difficult situations such as this with thoughtful and insightful courage rather than fear. Presently, I am located in Pakistan, my brother is in Beijing, and the courage and support demonstrated by all people on this side of the world is commendable.
Below, is some of the best advice I have seen from a credible source, and I thought I would share it.
Dr. James A. Robb has allowed this to be copied.
Dr. James A. Robb, molecular virologist
Dear Colleagues, as some of you may recall, when I was a professor of pathology at the University of California San Diego, I was one of the first molecular virologists in the world to work on coronaviruses (the 1970s). I was the first to demonstrate the number of genes the virus contained. Since then, I have kept up with the coronavirus field and its multiple clinical transfers into the human population (e.g., SARS, MERS), from different animal sources.
The current projections for its expansion in the US are only probable, due to continued insufficient worldwide data, but it is most likely to be widespread in the US by mid to late March and April.
Here is what I have done and the precautions that I take and will take. These are the same precautions I currently use during our influenza seasons, except for the mask and gloves.:
1) NO HANDSHAKING! Use a fist bump, slight bow, elbow bump, etc.
2) Use ONLY your knuckle to touch light switches. elevator buttons, etc. Lift the gasoline dispenser with a paper towel or use a disposable glove.
3) Open doors with your closed fist or hip – do not grasp the handle with your hand, unless there is no other way to open the door. Especially important on bathroom and post office or other commercial doors.
4) Use disinfectant wipes at the stores when they are available, including wiping the handle and child seat in grocery carts.
5) Wash your hands with soap for 10-20 seconds and/or use a greater than 60% alcohol-based hand sanitizer whenever you return home from ANY activity that involves locations where other people have been.
6) Keep a bottle of sanitizer available at each of your home’s entrances. AND in your car for use after getting gas or touching other contaminated objects when you can’t immediately wash your hands.
7) If possible, cough or sneeze into a disposable tissue and discard. Use your elbow only if you have to. The clothing on your elbow will contain infectious virus that can be passed on for up to a week or more!
In preparation for the pandemic spread to the US:
1) Use Latex or nitrile latex disposable gloves when going shopping, using the gasoline pump, and all other outside activity which brings you in contact with contaminated areas.
Note: This virus is spread in large droplets by coughing and sneezing. This means that the air will not infect you! BUT all the surfaces where these droplets land are infectious for about a week on average – everything that is associated with infected people will be contaminated and potentially infectious. The virus is on surfaces and you will not be infected unless your unprotected face is directly coughed or sneezed upon. This virus only has cell receptors for lung cells (it only infects your lungs) The only way for the virus to infect you is through your nose or mouth via your hands or an infected cough or sneeze onto or into your nose or mouth.
2) Disposable surgical masks can prevent you from touching your nose and/or mouth (We touch our nose/mouth 90X/day without knowing it!). This is the only way this virus can infect you – it is lung-specific. The mask will not prevent the virus in a direct sneeze from getting into your nose or mouth – it is only to keep you from touching your nose or mouth.
3) Hand sanitizers and latex/nitrile gloves ( in the appropriate sizes for your family) must be alcohol-based and greater than 60% alcohol to be effective.
4) Zinc lozenges have been proven to be effective in blocking coronavirus (and most other viruses) from multiplying in your throat and nasopharynx. Use as directed several times each day when you begin to feel ANY “cold-like” symptoms beginning. It is best to lie down and let the lozenge dissolve in the back of your throat and nasopharynx.
I hope these personal thoughts will be helpful during this potentially catastrophic pandemic. You are welcome to share this email.
James Robb, MD
>>> James’ credentials:
Dr. James A. Robb is an American pathologist and molecular virologist.
He has a BA in theoretical physics from the University of Colorado. In 1965 he entered the University of Colorado Medical School where he received his MD degree. He took a residency in pathology, as well as training in molecular biology, at Yale University, then went to work at the National Institutes of Health. He has been a professor at the University of California, San Diego,
 a consulting pathologist at the National Cancer Institute, and director of anatomic and molecular pathology at Cedars Medical Center in Miami, Florida.
 He is board certified in anatomic pathology, clinical pathology, cytopathology, and dermatopathology.
 During the 1970s while he was at UC-San Diego, Robb published some of the earliest descriptions of coronaviruses.
 He co-wrote the chapter on coronaviruses in the book Comprehensive Virology
 and has published extensively on the subject.
Feel free to copy and send to family & friends.