Stowe High School has canceled a field trip to China amid worries of a worldwide outbreak of coronavirus first identified in that country’s Hubei Province.
Superintendent Tracy Wrend said she made the call to cancel the trip last Tuesday, two days before the World Health Organization deemed the rapidly spreading outbreak a Public Health Emergency of International Concern.
The United States has placed a Level 4 travel advisory — Do Not Travel — against visits to China, and advised those already in the country to try to leave.
At Monday’s Lamoille South school board meeting, Wrend commended Stowe foreign language teacher Mairead Harris for her “tremendous outreach” to her counterparts in China from the earliest days of the virus. She said there was “some financial impact” to families, but the general feedback on the decision to pull the plug has been positive.
According to The New York Times, the respiratory illness is so new that it doesn’t even have a name yet — coronavirus is a category of viruses that lead to pneumonia-like illnesses in those who contract it. It is considered to be as contagious as the flu, and has infected more than 17,000 people in at least 23 countries.
More than 360 people have died from it so far, and the World Health Organization estimates that one in every 50 people who become infected will die.
It is exceedingly difficult to contain, since it may even be transmittable before a person begins to show symptoms.
Anyone returning to the U.S. from the Wuhan/Hubei region of China will be quarantined for two weeks. As of Monday, there have been 11 confirmed cases in the U.S.
So far, other planned international field trips are still on — Peoples Academy is sending students to the Galapagos Islands later this month and Stowe High has a trip to France planned for April.
A planned Stowe High trip to Costa Rica in April was canceled for lack of interest, Wrend said.
Wrend said the trips are being organized by professional travel agencies, and have “a menu of plans” to respond should the virus continue to spread around the globe.
Normal flu season, too
Wrend said this is also the time of the year when students start staying home sick with normal seasonal influenza, and she said officials “are certainly seeing cases of the flu in all of our schools.”
Despite reports that the flu kept dozens of PA Middle School students home recently, Wrend said no one school has reported significantly more cases than usual. Some sporting events have been canceled, but that was because the opposing schools didn’t have enough healthy players to field a team.
Custodial staff in all of the Lamoille South schools have upped their rounds, taking extra care to do things like wash door handles and knobs.
“I’m often grateful for February break so we can all rest and heal and be away from everybody’s germs for a while,” Wrend said.