Coronavirus Update: 2 school districts closed in Westchester County

MOUNT VERNON, Westchester County (WABC) -- Two school districts in Westchester County are closed Thursday due to the coronavirus outbreak - and both will remained closed until Monday.

In Mount Vernon, the closure involves all 16 schools. In Hastings-on-Hudson, all three schools are closed for cleaning.

The closures come because students that go to those schools or their parents have been exposed to the people or locations where they've seen positive coronavirus cases.

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In New York City, one teacher has reportedly self-quarantined and is being tested for COVID 19 Thursday.

She traveled to Italy during a recent school break and went back to the classroom upon returning.

But after Italy became one of the hotspots for the novel coronavirus, the woman self-quarantined. She has not exhibited any symptoms so far.

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The teachers' union says there are other teachers who have also sparked concern due to recent travel.

The city and union are now working together to find a way to reach out to those teachers and quarantine them.

So far, New York City has not seen any cases, so there has been no need to close any schools.

"I think we all agree that closing schools is probably the last option because of the myriad of issues that creates for not only students, parents, teachers, etc., so that's on the spectrum of last resorts," said NYC Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza on Wednesday.

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The city is being proactive. School officials say crews are now disinfecting classrooms twice a week and stocking up on cleaning supplies.

Officials have canceled all study abroad programs and canceled trips to places where there are outbreaks.

Classes in both Mount Vernon and Hastings-on-Hudson are expected to resume Monday.

The mayor of Hastings-on-Hudson released the following statement about the situation:

I know many of you are concerned about what you are reading in the media and/or what you have heard from friends and neighbors about Covid-19. We are working closely with the County to monitor the situation and have been told there are currently no known cases in Hastings-on-Hudson, however, as you may have heard, there are cases in Westchester County.

Following protocols from the New York Department of Health, the Superintendent of Schools decided to close the Village schools for two days in order to sanitize the buildings to ensure the safety of students and faculty. Several other school districts have followed suit.

For those of you who want accurate and vetted information about Covid-19 the best source (and the one that all other levels of government are referring to) is the CDC website which you can access HERE. The CDC site has a tremendous amount of information - there is specific guidance for schools, pregnant women and children, and businesses. There is also a section with protocols for first responders and health care providers. The key messages for individual citizens have been well summarized on the County site (see HERE) and also replicated on the Village website HERE.

How to protect yourself: The advice is simple, clear and practical and reminds me exactly of what my grandmother always said about avoiding the flu:
Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds (enough time to sing "Happy Birthday to You" twice). Use alcohol based hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available.
Cough or sneeze into a tissue (not your hands), then throw the tissue in the trash.
Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
Stay home when you are sick.
Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a cleaning product that contains bleach.
Get a flu shot.
There is detailed information on the CDC website on what to do if you think you might be sick, again the advice is very sensible: if you have the typical symptoms (fever, cough, shortness of breath) stay home, separate yourself from others, and call the Covid-19 hotlines to notify the authorities so that you can be given the help you need while protecting your family and neighbors. Here are the numbers to call:
People under self-quarantine or exposure to known case, call (866) 588-0195
NYS Department of Health COVID-19 Hotline (888) 364-3065
Westchester County COVID-19 Information Call 211

Here are some other helpful links: the County's COVID-19 fact sheet; the County's news conference; the State's news conference; and the fast facts page from the County on the Westchester case.

The Village Manager, the Chief of Police, the Fire Chief, the Board of Trustees and I have been preparing for the possibility of a potential or actual exposure for several weeks. We have been coordinating directly with County and have approved protocols in place for our emergency responders. The County Health Department has activated its Emergency Operations Center in Hawthorne to respond as needed. We are working with local, County and State authorities to stay informed as the situation changes. Please know that the risk of becoming infected remains low, and that most people who fall ill are likely to experience mild to moderate disease with full recovery. While it is important to be attentive and prepared, fear and panic are not helpful. The CDC encourages all of us to share facts, not fear.


RELATED INFORMATION:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on coronavirus

New Yorkers can call the State hotline at 1-888-364-3065, where experts from the Department of Health can answer questions regarding the novel coronavirus.

New York State information about coronavirus

New York City information about coronavirus

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