Officials from Murrieta Valley Unified School District in Riverside County announced March 6 the closure of one of its schools in response to news that an employee was ill and being tested for novel coronavirus (COVID-19). The district was informed the teacher recently traveled to a country with a known coronavirus outbreak and will not be identified due to privacy laws.
Murrieta Valley High School (MVHS) will be closed Monday, March 9 and will remain closed until testing of the affected individual is complete. During the closure, the campus will be disinfected.
“The health and safety of our students is our first concern. This decision was made is to ensure their health,” said Murrieta Valley Unified School District Superintendent Pat Kelley.
Riverside County public health officials also announced on Friday they issued exclusion orders to 71 students instructing them to self- quarantine. These students may have come into contact with the sick individual. These actions were taken to prevent students and school personnel from becoming sick.
“While I want to reassure the students, families, and staff at MVHS that the risk of transmission is low, I support the school district’s decision to temporarily close the school until testing is complete,” said Dr. Cameron Kaiser, Riverside County public health officer.
Coronavirus is generally transmitted through close contact with a sick person. The virus can be spread on surfaces through coughs and sneezes. It’s critical that anyone who is sick, stays home. Public health officials urge the community to cover coughs and sneezes, wash hands frequently and keep a distance from others who are sick.
According to the Center of Disease Control those first infected at the epicenter of the outbreak in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China had some link to a large seafood and live animal market, suggesting animal-to-person spread. Later, a growing number of patients reportedly did not have exposure to animal markets, indicating person-to-person spread. Person-to-person spread was subsequently reported outside Hubei and in countries outside China, including in the United States. Some international destinations now have apparent community spread with the virus, as do some parts of the United States. Community spread means some people have been infected and it is not known how or where they became exposed.
Fears over the coronavirus have sparked conversations and proactive measures to be taken by schools throughout Riverside County. The schools appear to be putting the health and safety of their students first and taking a proactive approach.
Temecula Unified School District sent an email to all parents stating they working closely with local, state, and federal public health agencies to monitor the latest updates regarding the coronavirus and ensure the wellbeing of students and staff.
In an email, to all parents, the TVUSD stated, “At this time, the health risk of the Novel Coronavirus to the general public in California remains low. Still, we continue to encourage common-sense precautions to prevent the spread of all infectious diseases.”
School districts are reminding parents they do not have the authority or responsibility to issue the quarantining of students but they are encouraging anyone with a fever to stay home.
Officials from the Temecula Valley School District are following guidance from The Center for Disease Control on returning travelers from China. Travelers from mainland China arriving in the United States should practice “social distancing” (staying home away from public places including school) for 14 days, beginning the day after they left China. CDC guidance on returning travelers is available here:
Hemet Unified canceled many of their field trips due to their concerns on the coronavirus. The district has 22, 025 students to protect according to the California Department of Education.
Alexandrea Sponheim, spokeswoman for the Hemet Unified School District, announced last week that trips outside of Riverside County and overnight trips will be curbed until further notice.
Some of the events canceled include college visits, trips or amusement parks like Legoland, Six Flags and Disneyland. A trip to San Francisco for a choir festival was also shelved after a senior district administrators made the decision,“ Sponheim said.
San Francisco Mayor London Breed announced Thursday that two cases of COVID-19 were identified in the city, “The global picture is changing rapidly, and we need to step-up preparedness,” Breed said in a statement. “We see the virus spreading in new parts of the world every day, and we are taking the necessary steps to protect San Franciscans from harm.”
Officials from the San Jacinto Unified School District are preparing for home school instructions if they have an outbreak and need to shut down.
An administration team for SJUSD wrote, “In the event of a school closing as a result of COVID-19, the staff is exploring platforms that will best meet the needs of all students, staff, and families as well as developing plans to train staff and utilize modules that are appropriate for home instruction. If a school or schools get shut down, the district will communicate clearly with all families the process and expectations for continuing learning.”
Learn what is known about the spread of this newly emerged coronavirus from the CDC.