Several U.S. school systems have had to react quickly to coronavirus scares. The fast-spreading illness has killed nearly 500 people in China and spread to about two dozen countries. The United States had 11 confirmed cases as of Wednesday.
Doctors told almost three dozen teachers and students from The Benjamin School in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., to stay home for a few days after a possible exposure to the coronavirus while they attended the Model United Nations conference at Yale University late last month. Yale ended the event a day early when a participating student from China developed a cough and fever. But a medical evaluation came back negative for the virus.
A charter school in Philadelphia called off its two-week exchange program early because one of the visiting Chinese students became ill. On their way to the United States, program participants made a connecting flight in Wuhan, the epicenter of the outbreak. Health officials later said the student did not have the coronavirus.
Fairfax County Schools in Virginia also canceled an exchange program with Chinese students “out of an abundance of caution” after they arrived in the United States but before they met with their host families. The students were from a town less than 200 miles from Wuhan. School officials worked with a travel company to give the middle school–aged students and their chaperones an opportunity to experience cultural activities in the Washington, D.C., area.
Many school districts across the country, including ones in San Francisco, Houston, and Montgomery County, Md., have sent information to parents about coronavirus symptoms and prevention measures. The prevention steps for coronavirus—hand washing, covering coughs and sneezes, and avoiding close contact with sick people—are the same for the cold and flu. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 10,000 people have died in the United States so far this season from the flu, so the extra caution could save lives even if the coronavirus stays away. —Bob Brown