NC schools talk prevention while preparing for possible coronavirus outbreak


RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – As the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report additional cases of the novel coronavirus in the U.S., North Carolina’s Superintendent of Public Instruction sent a note out to schools and families regarding prevention and preparation.

“The discussion is different because this is so unknown right now,” Superintendent Mark Johnson told CBS 17 Monday. “We are first getting out the message of prevention. Let’s do everything we can in our power to make sure coronavirus doesn’t come to one of our schools in North Carolina.”

Johnson stressed that there are currently no confirmed cases of the virus in North Carolina.

He urged people to take steps they would typically take to avoid the flu such as avoiding close contact with people who are sick, thorough hand washing and staying home when you’re sick.

On Monday, officials in Washington state reported that six people have died from the novel coronavirus. The situation has prompted dozens of schools in the state to close for cleaning.

During a briefing last week, President Donald Trump said, “Yeah, I think schools should be preparing and get ready just in case. The words are ‘just in case.’”

Johnson said DPI has been in touch with school system leaders in North Carolina and the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services to coordinate the response in case any positive cases are reported that impact schools.

“We have already started preparing local school leaders if they find out there’s a situation in one of their schools, to immediately contact us and the full force of the North Carolina government will be there, will be ready to help address that situation,” he said.

Johnson said his agency is also discussing ways to continue learning in the event any long-term closures become necessary.

“It depends if it’s an urban district, where more people are connected to broadband already, or a rural district where we might have to help get hotspots to students who don’t have high-speed internet,” he said. “We are looking at options, if again, heaven forbid, this happens, making sure that learning is not interrupted and possibly going to online learning strategies. Again, this is if the worst-case scenario (happens) and we have to close a school.”

Kristen Orr, whose children are in the first and fourth grades, said she’s been taking steps to try to minimize the likelihood of her children and their classmates getting sick.

Despite getting the flu shot, she said her son got the flu twice already this year. She said she kept him home and away from other kids while he recovered.

She said given the recent developments in other parts of the country regarding the novel coronavirus, she expects to hear more about it from other parents.

“Now that there’s been more talk of it this weekend, I think there’s going to be more conversations about it,” she said.

Ro Salter, another parent, said, “It seems to be more on the elderly who have the problems with it and not so much with the kids, but I still don’t want them to have the chance of getting it.”

For more information on the novel coronavirus from NC DHHS, click here.

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