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What If There's No Soap?

The District school system is urging students to vigorously and frequently wash their hands with soap.

Schools Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee and DC Health Department director Dr. Pierre Vigilance urge “lathering well above the wrists and (rubbing) your hands together for at least 15-20 seconds."

Children should scrub for the amount of time it takes to sing “Happy Birthday” or “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” twice.

But what if there's no soap?

. A spot check of teachers in schools today, including Roosevelt High School in Northwest, Hart Middle School in Southeast, Emery Education Campus in Northeast and West Education Center Campus in Northwest showed multiple rest rooms without soap.

“Sometimes there is soap; more often, there isn’t,” said an instructor at Hart, who like others asked not to be named for fear of reprisals. “I keep hand sanitizer in my room. Yesterday there was no soap in the first floor girls’ bathroom.”

“Some bathrooms have soap and others have soap dispensers that do not work, so you can only wash your hands with soap in some restrooms,” said a Roosevelt teacher.
“Routinely, there is no soap, paper towels, etc in many of the bathrooms,” said a teacher at West.

A DCPS spokeswoman aid the school system had no reports of soap shortages but stood ready to respond to any supply requests

_ Bill Turque

By Michael E. Ruane  |  May 1, 2009; 5:11 PM ET
Categories:  Prevention  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Rockville Kid with Swine Flu Got Infection Locally
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Not surprising, how many times have you gone into a restroom in either a restaurant or quick mart and find there is no soap or towels? When traveling the only place I find consistently stocked and maintained are hotels. I would think that after or better before Ms. Rhee spoke she would have made arrangements or at least verified that the proper soap and towels were available at ALL school locations. She was after all a teacher and knows what the school environment is. I'm sure the DC schools are no different than any other schools anywhere else in the country. After these comments it would be interesting for someone to again survey the schools and see if the situation has been corrected. This flu is only in the beginning stages if the proper precautions are not taken the spread will be significant. In my opinion the true test of Ms. Rhee's management ability hinges on her ability to execute the basics during a crises. The crises is containing the spread of the flu in the DC schools. Getting soap and towels in all the bathrooms should be priority one. Let's see if it happens.

Posted by: bpeterson_98 | May 1, 2009 6:11 PM | Report abuse

This problem is NOT limited to DC. When I taught in a public middle school in Jacksonville, FL years ago, the bathrooms (including teachers) were filthy and the student bathrooms never had soap.

If I were a parent, I would not send my child to school without inspecting the bathrooms for cleanliness, soap, and hot water. Many people believe that the Swine Flu situation is overblown, but schools are where it is most likely to spread.

From the CDC,
"...School dismissal and childcare closures are an important part of a comprehensive, layered mitigation approach aimed at reducing disease transmission and associated morbidity and mortality during the 2009 H1N1 virus outbreak in the US.

The goals of these strategies are to slow the spread of the disease in a community to 1) delay the peak of the disease in order to “buy time” for the production and distribution of a vaccine against this new virus, 2) decrease the number of people who get sick from this virus in a given community, thus reducing the “surge” on healthcare systems, and 3) reduce the total number of people who get sick or die."

"Schools play a critical role in protecting the health of their students, staff, and the community from contagious diseases such as H1N1 influenza. Children are very susceptible to getting this new virus and schools may serve as amplification point for spread of this new virus in a community. The reason for closing schools during this H1N1 outbreak is to try to reduce the spread of the virus. However, little information is available on what the effectiveness of a school closure might be in preventing further community spread of this new virus. In addition, the risk of severe illness from this virus is not yet clear."

Posted by: ldaziens | May 1, 2009 6:23 PM | Report abuse

I just returned from a trip to South Borneo, where the tribe I was staying with used human urine to wash their hands. Of course, the tribe's typical greeting (an elbow bump) helps decrease the spread of viral diseases (such as swine flu).

Posted by: Biggiepie | May 1, 2009 9:10 PM | Report abuse

I have taught in Prince George's County for four years. The lack of soap has always been an issue & paper towel in both the adult AND children's restrooms. I teach 4th grade & when we go to the restroom as a group we take soap with us. When they students do individually, they come back to the room to wash their hands.

It was interesting to hear that Prince George's county has already taken precaution with cleaning and ensuring that there is soap and paper towel available in all restrooms. Very interesting...

Posted by: 2StepsAway | May 2, 2009 7:50 PM | Report abuse

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