All schools in Maryland and several other states are closed for at least two weeks, beginning on Monday, March 16.
Karen Salmon, the Maryland state superintendent of schools, announced the closures at a press conference led by Gov Larry Hogan Thursday afternoon.
“It is crucial that we take immediate measures to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) in school communities around the state,” she said. “During the time of school closure, all public school buildings and school buses should be cleaned and disinfected to prevent spread of the virus upon the return of students and staff to school.”
The announcement came after Mr Hogan announced an elevated preparedness level and made state employees work remotely, instead of coming into the office, if they could.
The superintendent’s announcement affects only public schools, but religious schools have generally followed her lead, closing schools as well.
President Donald Trump declared a national emergency Friday, freeing up billions of dollars to bolster efforts to reduce the spread of or help those affected by the virus.
Not all schools in Illinois are closed, but several local superintendents have taken preemptive steps to keep students and staff safe from unnecessary exposure.
“Based on the rapidly evolving situation of the COVID-19, and recommendations from public health officials and our governor to limit public gatherings, District 200 is closing all school buildings to students the weeks of March 16 and March 23,” said Supt Jeff Schuler in Wheaton, Illinois. The district serves 13 elementary, four middle, and two high schools, with a total enrollment of about 12,500. “In addition, all activities and events at the buildings are canceled through spring break, March 30 through April 4.”
The Illinois High School Association and the activities associations in several states have cancelled events, mainly at this time for boys’ and girls’ basketball, which perennially involve large gatherings in close spaces.
“We appreciate the patience and understanding that we have received from everyone involved in this process over the past 72 hours,” said Craig Anderson, executive director of the IHSA. “We have stressed the fluidity of this situation and have been transparent about the possibility that a suspension or cancellation could occur. While we had support from the Illinois Department of Public Health and the Peoria City/County Health Department to continue our events with limited spectators, it has become untenable to continue the events among our member schools. Multiple schools who are participating or hosting these sports and activities have been forced to withdraw from those roles, clarifying the need for the IHSA to take definitive action. The board considered suspending the events, but after deliberate discussion, did not believe that was a realistic option within the timeline. We feel for everyone who has been impacted, but must put the health and safety of all involved ahead of these events.”
But other states have gone so far as to cancel finals tournaments.
“A lot of tears,” is what Kathy Naro, head coach at Beaverton High School in Oregon, said the scrapping of the state’s 4A, 5A, and 6A girls’ basketball tournaments by the Oregon School Activities Association brought to her team. “What’s so hard is I think we really felt like it was our turn. I’ve been pretty emotional since I found out. I didn’t know yesterday was going to be our last game together. It’s been such a journey, and we’ve been so focused and so in the moment, and to just have it cut off, it’s surreal.”
Underscoring the fast-changing quality of the coronavirus situation, the Ohio High School Athletic Association, where schools are closed for a minimum of three weeks, has so far moved only to “postpone” state tournaments, including girls’ basketball, individual wrestling, ice hockey, and boys’ basketball tournaments.
“No timetable has been determined for possible rescheduling for the tournaments,” the association wrote, promising further updates as the public health situation develops.