CLEVES, Ohio — In nearly a decade of teaching algebra at Taylor Middle School, Taylor Morgan said he’s never seen the number of sick-outs the school experienced this flu season.
"I’ve seen how many kids have been out for long stretches, teachers out for their kids or themselves,” Morgan said. “So this year by far is the most that I've ever seen in my nine years.”
In January, 600 students and 50 teachers at Three Rivers Local Schools missed class because of illness, some with the flu that hammered Hamilton County over the fall and winter. The number of people hospitalized for the flu hit a five-year high and death rates went up 2%, according to county officials.
Three Rivers took precautionary measures. After consulting with Hamilton County’s Health Department, it closed for two days in January so crews could mop, scrub and clean out the campus shared by all 2,500 K-12 students.
Morgan said the absences and school closures have an impact on the learning process for everyone.
“When they're in and out and you're missing out, that's a detriment to them but also just to the whole," Morgan said.
It was a necessary precaution, however, as health officials in the Cincinnati area saw the flu hit the community harder than the rest of the country.
The reason for the outbreak is still unknown, with local doctors monitoring flu strains and how well they match vaccines.
Officials at the Northern Kentucky Health Department charted two peaks of the flu cases in the region. The first came in the fall, and then a surprise peak popped up in January.
Epidemiology director Zach Raney said he understands if hand-washing advice has become white noise, but it's still important.
"So many diseases, more than just the flu, would be prevented with good hand-washing practices,” Raney said.
With the possibility of a COVID-19 outbreak, Three Rivers Local Schools is taking the lessons learned from the flu outbreak. They’re still cleaning, and the administration met Tuesday to discuss what they would do if the coronavirus reaches campus.
As of Wednesday afternoon, there were no confirmed cases in Cleves, the Three Rivers Local School District, or the Cincinnati area.
As a precaution, Morgan said he’s developing online tools for his middle schoolers so they can keep learning even if his classroom is empty.