School Committee To Vote Tuesday On LHS Spring Trips To Italy & France Amid Coronavirus Outbreak

Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker gives a press conference with state health officials Wednesday, March 4th to discuss community preparedness for the Coronavirus. The administration is urging colleges, universities and high schools to cancel upcoming, organized international trips at this time. SARAH FINLAW/GOVERNOR'S OFFICE

As the Coronavirus outbreak continues The Jet Jotter will be providing updates on its local impact here in Longmeadow. Check back every few days.

According to the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Thursday’s March 5th Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) situation report, the Coronavirus has swept 84 countries, infecting 95,333 people and killing 3,282.  The Centers For Disease Control (CDC) reports 99 confirmed cases of the disease spread over 13 states and resulting in ten deaths. Notably, Massachusetts has two cases of Coronavirus and over 250 people in self-quarantine. The surrounding states of New York, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island have 22, two, and two cases respectively.  Longmeadow has not been standing idly by, forming a Coronavirus Task Force, headed by Fire Chief John Dearborn, which has begun looking at how Longmeadow would respond to the Coronavirus if or when it arrives here.

On Wednesday, March 4th, Governor Charlie Baker urged high schools to cancel international travels. The Longmeadow School Committee is due to vote this Tuesday, March 10th on whether to allow two high school trips to Italy and France scheduled for April school break. Longmeadow Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Marty O’Shea says, “[Govenor Baker’s recommendation] will be considered by the School Committee on Tuesday evening.” World Language Department Chair, Mrs. Kathleen Epaul, one of the advisors for the French trip “[has] been in contact with the travel company and [will] continue to seek updates from them,” she says. “For all of us, student safety is the first concern, of course.” Dr. O’Shea says the question of whether or not students will be reimbursed for their payments for the trips is “to be determined.” It will be discussed at Tuesday’s meeting.

Due to the rapid growth and spread of the virus, coupled with the difficult fight against it, Dr. O’Shea has called it “a very fluid situation.” The town of Longmeadow has made a Coronavirus task force which draws from all the town departments, and acts as an extended hand of the CDC and the Massachusetts Board of Health, carrying out the message of the state and applying it to Longmeadow. Dr. O’Shea says, “I feel that Longmeadow is ahead of the curve thanks largely to Chief Dearborn. He was really proactive at pulling that task force together at an early stage, making sure we knew how to respond.”

A response includes the disinfection of buildings, closing of public facilities, local quarantines, and community involvement with good hygiene. He advises that “many practices that help prevent the spread of the flu and the common cold will also help prevent transmission of the Coronavirus.”

If Longmeadow is to fight the virus, it boils down to not traveling outside of Longmeadow and one’s place of work, washing one’s hands for 20 seconds or more with soap, coughing and sneezing not into one’s hand but into the elbow and sleeve, and people self quarantining themselves to protect others.As of now the Massachusetts Department Of Health says the Coronavirus risk to residents in Massachusetts remains low.

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