How Schools Are Reacting to Coronavirus After the First US Death

Health care workers transport a coronavirus patient on a stretcher into an ambulance at Life Care Center of Kirkland on February 29, 2020 in Kirkland, Washington. David Ryder/Getty Images

Americans are on edge to respond to the coronavirus (Covid-19) that has dominated news headlines from Washington state to Washington D.C. to Wall Street in recent weeks. After the first death from the virus in the U.S. was confirmed over the weekend, schools are ramping up their concern across the country.

Per the latest count by the World Health Organization, there were 88,948 confirmed cases of the new coronavirus globally, including 60 in the U.S., as of Monday.

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In New York, a Manhattan health care worker who had recently travelled to Iran was tested positive for Covid-19 on Sunday, making her the first confirmed case in the state. “The patient has respiratory symptoms, but is not in serious condition and has been in a controlled situation since arriving to New York,” Governor Andrew Cuomo said in a statement. New York officials confirmed a second case on Tuesday in Westchester county.

And yet, schools and universities across New York City are taking serious precautions amid the latest scare.

Columbia University, for example, has implemented restrictions regarding travel to China and South Korea. The school has asked those affiliated with the university to avoid all non-essential travel and urged anyone with travel history to China, Italy, Iran, Japan and South Korea in the past two weeks to inform the school. New York University and The New School have adopted similar policies.

The State University of New York said on Tuesday it will bring home all students who are studying abroad in regions with reported coronavirus cases and may expand that policy further this week.

Health care experts have called on schools to take precautions nationwide. “Colleges should be draconian in keeping sick students in their dorm rooms and out of classrooms and activities,” Edward Hoffer, an associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, told Observer.

In Washington state and Oregon, two high schools are closed this week for cleaning after a student and a school employee were tested positive for the coronavirus last week.

Other schools in the high-risk areas are opting to tele-education to avoid physical contact among students and staff.

The University of Washington in Seattle is calling on professors to hold classes online “to minimize disruptions to student learning, such as assessing their readiness to conduct class activities online, should that be required, and ensuring students and employees who are ill can be properly supported,” a representative for the university said in a statement.

“As concerns over coronavirus rise, educators are faced with difficult decisions,” Megan Sandoval, a senior vice president of regional school services for America’s western regions at the online education platform K12, told Observer. “Keeping students safe is their number one priority. Online education options may be able to fill some of the gaps, if the right resources are available and ready to be implemented.”

Several school districts elsewhere in the U.S. have also launched tele-education platforms in the wake of epidemic. In Florida, Miami-Dade County Public Schools announced last week that it would distribute 200,000 laptops for tele-education in the event of school closure. Various school districts in the Chicago and Seattle metro areas have taken similar measures.

Update: As of Tuesday, March 3, there are nine confirmed deaths from Covid-19 in the U.S. 

How Schools Are Reacting to Coronavirus After the First US Death