The Coronavirus is a virus that leads to COVID-19, a flu and influenza-like respiratory disease. The mortality rate is currently being reported at 2.3% to 3.4%, compared to the typical seasonal flu mortality rate of 0.1%, though the COVID-19 has shown to only be fatal to those of older age. With over 2,110 cases around the world, the World Health Organization (W.H.O) has officially classified the outbreak as a global pandemic. The disease has prompted global panic – and the DC Metropolitan Area is nowhere immune, on any count.
Virginia Governor Ralph Northam has declared a state of emergency in Virginia, forcing all K-12 schools to close for a minimum of two weeks. Because of this, the Center For Disease Control (CDC) has awarded Virginia over $13 million. There are currently 17 cases of the Coronavirus in Virginia. Fairfax County has reported six positive cases and Montgomery County, Maryland has reported 13 cases. A great deal of these cases in the DC area derive from a situation that arose at Christ Church in Georgetown. A rector tested positive for the disease, after being present at services and unknowingly potentially infecting the large congregation. Over 550 parishioners are in self-quarantine. One member of the church, Jim Cannon, shared with the Washington Post that he feels fine and will not quarantine as he spent Monday, March 9 playing golf in Reston.
Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) will be closed until April 10, 2020. FCPS has announced, “Schools will be open Monday, March 16, for students and staff to access their belongings as well as providing laptops or other digital devices for students in grades 3-8 who do not have access at home.” Meal plans for students are currently expanding. There will be “digital and online resources” available to FCPS students, but it will not be required or graded. FCPS is implementing cable channels and activities, with new videos being developed. They will be online shortly.
FCPS high schoolers all have personal laptops that are provided by the county, but middle and elementary students are not granted the same technology. The county planned to implement FCPSOn (the laptop program) through the 2020-21 school year for middle schools, 2021-22 for elementary schools (grade fifth through six) and 2022-23 (grade third through fourth). The lack of technology is proving to be an issue, but Superintendent Scott Brabrand assured parents that they will be working to educate teachers about how to educate students without technology at home. Superintendent Brabrand stated, “We want learning to continue even if we face a short term closure of one of our schools or several of our schools.”
FCPS has cancelled all field trips, including the National Concert Band Festival, which is part of the Music For All Foundation. The trip to Indianapolis, Indiana has been cancelled due to this outbreak. Band member and junior Maahi Vyas who was planning to attend the festival, shared, “It was a big disappointment. We were supposed to leave [March 12] and we had spent at least six months preparing music for the trip. Also they can’t guarantee refunds about the trip and it was about a thousand dollars.”
DC Public Schools will be closed until March 31, 2020. Loudoun County Public Schools are closing until March 20, 2020. Arlington County Public Schools will close until April 14, 2020.
George Mason University will be extending their spring break by one week, Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA), William and Mary, George Washington University, Virginia Tech, American University and University of Virginia and are moving all classes online and requesting that students return or remain home.
The panic surrounding the Coronavirus has lead to shortages in stores. Grocery stores are experiencing shortages of cleaning supplies, hand sanitizer, toilet paper and foods that families find themselves rushing to purchase before a large snowstorm. Despite the panic at grocery and bulk stores, malls and Reston Town Center have proven to be eerily empty.
Health officials assure residents that panic is vastly unnecessary, and that those who avoid touching their face and eyes, and who do not travel or frequent crowded spaces, are at a very low risk level. They urge citizens to thoroughly and consistently wash their hands, and to stay physically healthy in order to keep their immune system in good health.
Most companies and government positions in the DC have requested that employees work from home, if possible. DC has declared a state of emergency, and has requested that all events holding over 1,000 people be closed down, including the Cherry Blossom Festival and the DC Saint Patrick’s Day Parade.
John Hopkins Medicine reported the symptoms as “fever, cough, body aches, fatigue; sometimes vomiting and diarrhea. Can be mild or severe, even fatal in rare cases. Can result in pneumonia.” If you think you may be experiencing symptoms, you should contact your healthcare professional, and avoid contaminating others.