As more places across the country are coming to grips with the urgent and unprecedented nature of the coronavirus outbreak, school districts are mulling over whether to close for the rest of the 2019-2020 school year.
Kansas took this step on Tuesday, with Governor Laura Kelly ordering all k-12 campuses to close and ending in-person instruction throughout the state, according to KSHB TV. To blunt some of the pain to teachers, all school employees (including hourly-paid workers) will continue to be paid during the closures.
“The reality of this pandemic is that it cannot be controlled statewide if school buildings return to normal operations or if they respond inconsistently within our local communities,” Kelly said at a press conference on Tuesday afternoon news conference.
The same day, California Governor Gavin Newsom suggested that his state—in which more than 6 million kids are enrolled in K-12 schools—may soon follow suit. As Politico reports, Gov. Newsom warned the state’s parents that schools would likely remain closed until the summer break.
“This is a very sobering thing to say,” Newsom said when announcing the possible extended closures. “I don’t want to mislead you.”
Newsom also said he discussed the situation with his own daughter on Monday night.
“‘Honey, I don’t think the schools are going to open again,’” he recollected. “Boy, I hope I’m wrong, but I believe that to be the case,”
This was the first week all 50 states have reported cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. NPR, citing data from the World Health Organization, reports that the U.S. has more 5,600 cases of the respiratory virus, as of Tuesday afternoon, with New York and Washington state comprising nearly half of those cases.
The WHO’s regional director for Europe, Dr. Hans Henri P. Kluge, said in a press briefing that 152 countries have been affected by the coronavirus, with 7,000 people dying from it. Kluge also stressed that the epicenter of the pandemic isn’t in China, where it was discovered, but in Europe, where one third of all globally reported cases are.
The virus doesn’t impact most children as severely as it does other demographics, like the elderly or those with chronic disorders and autoimmune issues, like people diagnosed with hypertension or lupus. However, the latest research shows that babies and preschoolers can become seriously ill from novel coronavirus, and all children can pass on the virus, even when they don’t show symptoms of sickness.