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All Fulton County schools to close March 10 after employee tests positive for coronavirus

Avondale Estates COVID-19 Crime and public safety Decatur Kirkwood Metro ATL Tucker

All Fulton County schools to close March 10 after employee tests positive for coronavirus

This transmission electron microscope image shows SARS-CoV-2—also known as 2019-nCoV, the virus that causes COVID-19—isolated from a patient in the U.S. Virus particles are shown emerging from the surface of cells cultured in the lab. The spikes on the outer edge of the virus particles give coronaviruses their name. Public domain image obtained via https://www.niaid.nih.gov/news-events/novel-coronavirus-sarscov2-images
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This story has been updated. 

Fulton County Schools is giving other parents with children in metro Atlanta schools a preview of what they can expect when coronavirus is detected in their schools.

The county school district said that all schools will be closed on March 10 after learning that an employee has tested positive for coronavirus, also known as COVID-19.

“Our school system has been alerted by public health officials of a confirmed employee coronavirus case within our district,” the School District said in a message to parents and staff. “The employee is currently being treated at a local hospital. We are working with public health officials to determine the impact to our local schools and community. Based on this concern, all schools and offices will be closed on Tuesday, March 10, with additional closures communicated as determined. This closure will allow us to clean and sanitize affected schools as well as share additional details of our ongoing plan. Updates regarding this concern will be shared via additional emails and the district website.”

WABE reports that the district immediately dismissed schools impacted by the news.

“Officials said the teacher came in contact with students at Bear Creek Middle School and Woodland Middle School,” WABE reported. “Those schools and nearby Creekside High School closed early as a precaution.”

Atlanta Public Schools has canceled all out-of-state field trips as a precaution.

“Given the steadily increasing numbers of reported cases both internationally and in the United States, including Fulton County and elsewhere in Georgia, APS is taking proactive, immediate measures to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, both within the APS community and beyond,” the district said in a letter to parents. “Out of an abundance of caution, all APS-sponsored field trips to international and domestic out-of-state locations are canceled until further notice. For trips that are scheduled, please work with the airline or hotel directly for refunds or credits, if applicable. For in-state field trips, the district will proceed with caution. Associate Superintendents, in conjunction with Health Services, will review and monitor all currently scheduled in-state field trip requests for any needed cancellations. All requests for new in-state field trips will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis with special attention being placed on trips requiring air travel, events held in closed spaces, or events with 1,000 or more participants. We will continue to monitor updates from CDC, DPH and GADOE and will revisit our guidance for field trips as situations evolve.”

DeKalb County Schools also has canceled out-of-state field trips and will not approve any new requests for international and out-of-state field trips. To read the letter the school district sent to parents about COVID-19, click here.

In other coronavirus news, Gov. Brian Kemp announced that the state will use Hard Labor Creek State Park in Morgan County as a location to isolate and monitor COVID-19 patients. There are no patients at this location currently and no patients headed there at this time, Kemp’s office said.

“Currently, the Governor’s Office and state officials are working together to prepare the site for the placement of patients,” the announcement from Kemp’s office says. “Officials have already delivered and installed seven emergency trailers at the park, and related materials are en route for future use. Once established, the Department of Public Safety will provide security for this location. Officials are utilizing an isolated section of Hard Labor Creek State Park where emergency trailers and operations will be separated from the rest of the property. To prevent the disruption of ongoing operations, access to this specific part of Hard Labor Creek State Park is strictly limited to official use.”

While there are no cases currently in DeKalb County, the county’s chief executive officer has planned a town hall to discuss the county’s response. The county’s town hall meeting is set for March 11 at 7 p.m. at Rehoboth Baptist Church, located at 2997 Lawrenceville Highway in Tucker. The event will be live-streamed as well. To view the live stream, click here.

Chinese health officials believe the virus came from an animal source in the city of Wuhan that then spread person-to-person. Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses, some causing illness in people and others that affect animals, including camels, cats and bats, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Officials suspect the 2019 novel strain, identified as 2019-nCoV, emerged from the SARS virus, which killed hundreds around the globe in 2003. There is no vaccine for this strain of coronavirus.

As of 4:29 p.m. on March 9, there have been 26 reported deaths from coronavirus in the United States and at least 600 reported infections, according to the Associated Press. Globally, the death toll is approaching 4,000.

Symptoms include fever, dry cough and shortness of breath and can appear anywhere between two days or two weeks after exposure. The coronavirus spreads person-to-person, much like influenza, and can easily be contracted through exposure to someone who has the virus. In the current outbreak, the Centers for Disease Control said, symptoms have ranged from infected people with little to no symptoms to people being severely ill and dying. Older people and those with compromised immune systems are most vulnerable.

Here are the recommendations on coronavirus prevention from the DeKalb County Board of Health:

– Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.

– Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.

– Avoid close contact with people who are sick.

– Stay home when you are sick.

– Cough or sneeze into your elbow or use a tissue to cover it, then throw the tissue in the trash.

– Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.

The DeKalb County Board of Health is encouraging people not to buy facemasks.

“Surgical masks should be reserved for people who exhibit symptoms (to prevent them from spreading the virus through respiratory secretions such as saliva or mucus) and healthcare professionals who are taking care of sick people,” the DeKalb County Board of Health says. “Regular surgical face masks are not effective in protecting against the coronavirus, according to the CDC. A more specialized face mask known as N95 respirators are thicker than surgical masks and are fitted to a person’s face to keep out any viral particles.”

For more information from the Centers for Disease Control, click here.

Jessica Zorker & Kelsea Miller with Cronkite News contributed reporting to this story. 

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