Friday, March 13, 2020

Area Schools Not Expecting to Close Due to Covid 19

As the coronavirus rapidly makes its way across the nation and the world, Sequoyah County schools are taking the time to ensure their staffs and students are safe.

The coronavirus, also known as COVID-19, has spread from Wuhan, China, to the rest of the world and there have been three confirmed cases of the virus in the Sooner State. The World Health Organization (WHO) declared the virus “a global pandemic” earlier in the week.

The virus has hit close to home, not with illness, but with cancellations of sporting events and large gatherings at schools around the state. Earlier this week, virus fears prompted the postponement of the state high school basketball tournament and the cancellation of the NCAA basketball tournament.

Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt called for a voluntary teleconference with all Oklahoma school superintendents for 1 p.m. Friday to discuss the situation and decide on the next steps. Superintendents are urged to take part in the call but are not required to do so.

When asked Friday whether the teleconference would lead to the closure of schools, Sallisaw Superintendent Randy Wood said he didn’t expect them to close, citing the governor’s previous announcement that schools would remain open.

Vian Superintendent Victor Salcedo said Friday that he is waiting for the teleconference to hear what the governor has to say. He said things are basically up in the air at the moment and he is looking for some answers.

Sequoyah County Emergency Management Director Steve Rutherford said he has been on calls with the White House, the CDC and the Oklahoma Department of Health, along with other agency officials and is monitoring the situation closely.

“As a county, we don’t have an official plan in mind or anything in writing and the commissioners and I have had talks about (a coronavirus plan) but we’re watching things closely,” he said.

In a Thursday teleconference, Stitt said there has been “no sign of community spread whatsoever,” and he noted that dealing with the coronavirus is “the top priority of my administration and we are focused on being proactive in order to protect public health and minimize the risk for Oklahomans.

“Our state is working with our federal, state and local partners in order to respond to any confirmed cases appropriately and swiftly and to ensure information and resources are available for all Oklahomans,” the governor said.

Symptoms of the coronavirus include fever, cough and shortness of breath and those who may have the symptoms are advised to stay home when sick, cover your cough or sneeze into a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash and clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces and above all, wash your hands and use hand sanitizer, health officials urge.

Laura Brown, KXMX Staff Writer

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