Schools to receive masks, gloves to protect students from H1N1

23 million disposables to go to 58 county education offices thanks to federal grants

In an effort to prevent the spread of the H1N1 flu virus among students, a group of state agencies is distributing 23 million disposable masks and gloves to schools across California, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell said Thursday.

Although Tri-Valley school districts, including Pleasanton's, will receive some of the masks and gloves, there's no estimate yet as to how many or when they will be given to schools and then to students requesting them.

Speaking at the Marin County Office of Education in San Rafael, O'Connell said that federal grants paid for the disposable masks and gloves for the state's 58 county offices of education, and the Los Angeles School District.

Since the H1N1 pandemic began spreading through schools in May, federal health officials have encouraged parents and educators to keep children home when they have flu-like symptoms. Students that develop these symptoms at school should be sent to a supervised sick room and kept away from other students until they can go home, according to federal health guidelines.

However, the latest recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention call for students to wear a surgical mask, if possible, as they wait to be picked up from school. Anyone caring for students while still at school should also wear a protective mask and gloves.

The California Emergency Management Agency received two federal grants, totaling nearly $2.5 million, to purchase the items, according to the California Department of Education. The money was used to purchase gloves, respirator masks and surgical masks.

Private shipping companies donated their services to ship the surgical masks to county education offices statewide, according to McConnell. The respirators and gloves will be distributed later this month, when they become available.

A state of emergency has existed in California since April 28, due to the outbreak of H1N1 flu viruses across the state and the nation.

Bay City News contributed to this report.

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