The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is now warning that schools and businesses should consider a closure if the COVID-19 virus becomes a pandemic. On Tuesday, they urged the public to start preparing themselves for a possible pandemic in the United States. Currently, the coronavirus has infected more than 80,000 people and killed at least 2,700 people worldwide in less than two months. There are currently 60 confirmed cases in the US.
“Now is the time for businesses, hospitals, communities, schools and everyday people to begin preparing,” said Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases.
She stated that local communities and cities many need to “modify, postpone, or cancel mass gatherings.”
This CDC announcement comes after one made by US health officials, which warned businesses, schools, and parents to start preparing for the coronavirus to become a global pandemic. South Korea has become the most infected country outside of China with more than 1,260 reported cases. Iran has the highest death rate outside of China, with 19 Iranians passing away out of the 139 cases.
What Would a Shutdown Look Like?
A pandemic is defined as a “worldwide spread” of a new disease. The last to be labeled as a pandemic was the H1N1 flu pandemic in 2009, which caused hundreds of thousands of deaths worldwide.
While the CDC has yet to declare pandemic status for the coronavirus, they recommend that schools begin to implement methods of prevention throughout classrooms. One method is dividing students into smaller groups and spacing desks as far apart as possible. If schools can, “internet-based teleschooling” is also recommended.
“If it’s serious enough to close schools, we have something today we didn’t have back then: We have the technology that does allow students to be able to stay home and do work online,” said Dan Domenech, the executive director of the School Superintendents Association (AASA), as reported in Education Week.
A closure would not mean a halt to education, rather, a move toward tech-based learning. If students previously used tech to complete schoolwork or upload assignments, the transition to e-learning in light of a closure may be easier than many would think. Talking to both kids and parents about how lessons can be conducted in their homes would be ideal for a smoother transition.
For adults in the workforce, the CDC advises that video and telephone meetings, and emphasis on teleworking options, replace in-person meetings. Until a pandemic has been declared or public spaces start to double down on new policies, it’s up to individuals to stay alert and take their own precautions: wash hands regularly, avoid touching mouth and face, and avoid coming into contact with those displaying worrisome symptoms.