Gov. Whitmer orders statewide closure of all K-12 school buildings from March 16 through April 5 to slow spread of coronavirus

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has ordered the closure of all school buildings from March 16 through April 5. Photo courtesy of the governor’s office.

As the number of confirmed coronavirus cases increased to 12 in Michigan on Thursday, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced tonight she is ordering a statewide closure of all K-12 school buildings from Monday, March 16 through Sunday, April 5 in an attempt to slow the spread of the infectious disease.

The closure will affect all public, private and boarding schools. As of now, school buildings are expected to reopen on April 6.

“This is a necessary step to protect our kids, our families, and our overall public health,” Whitmer said during a live address  Thursday night. “I am working with partners across state government to ensure educators, parents, and students have the support they need during this time, and to ensure our children who rely on school for meals have access to food.”

“I know this will be a tough time, but we’re doing this to keep the most people we can safe,” the governor continued. “I urge everyone to make smart choices during this time and to do everything they can to protect themselves and their families.”

The decision to close all school buildings comes after 10 new coronavirus cases were confirmed Thursday, up from the two cases confirmed on Tuesday, according to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS).  The coronavirus cases include:

  • An adult female from Ingham County with a history of travel on a cruise.
  • Two adult females from Kent County and one adult male, all with a history of international travel.
  • An adult female from Montcalm with a history of international travel.
  • Two adult males from Oakland County; one with no travel history and one with domestic travel.
  • An adult male from St. Clair County with a history of domestic travel.
  • One adult female and one adult male from Washtenaw County; one with a history of domestic travel and one with a history of international travel.

“Closing our K-12 school buildings is the responsible choice that will minimize the risk of exposure for children, educators, and families and mitigate the spread of coronavirus,” Michigan State Superintendent Michael Rice said in a  March 12 press statement. “The Department of Education will continue to work closely with our partners in state government to help our students and educators in each school district get through this time. This is about protecting the most people in Michigan.”

Michigan joins a number of other states who have taken similar steps in closing schools, including Ohio, Kentucky and Maryland.

The coronavirus, also called COVID-19, is a new pathogen that can cause a fever, cough and shortness of breath and which is 10 times more fatal than the flu, according to Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. In the worst coronavirus cases, patients’ lungs will fill with so much fluid that no amount of breathing support can help, and the patient dies.

The virus is believed to be spread primarily from person-to-person and between people who are in close contact with one another—about six feet. The virus is passed through respiratory droplets that are produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes.

Nobody in Muskegon County has tested positive for the coronavirus—of which more than 125,000 cases have been reported globally and which has caused more than 4,500 deaths, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). In the United States, there are about 1,700 reported cases of coronavirus and 40 coronavirus-related deaths, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control reported.

Measures individuals can take to protect themselves during this outbreak include:

  • Washing your hands often with soap and warm water for 20 seconds. If not available, use hand sanitizer.
  • Avoiding touching your eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Covering your mouth and nose with a tissue or upper sleeve when coughing or sneezing.
  • Avoiding contact with people who are sick.
  • If you are sick, stay home, and avoid contact with others.

Information around this outbreak is changing rapidly. The latest information is available at Michigan.gov/Coronavirus and CDC.gov/Coronavirus. For more about the impact of the coronavirus in Muskegon specifically, click here.

Story by Anna Gustafson, the publisher and editor of Muskegon Times. You can connect with her by emailing muskegontimes@gmail.com or on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

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