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In an email to staff this Thursday, March 12, Superintendent Dr. Marty O’Shea announced “[Friday’s] professional development day for all Unit A educators will be redirected toward the development of remote learning plans… Providing this time for the development of remote learning plans will put LPS in a better position to effectively and efficiently sustain learning and operations in the event that we face Covid-19 related school closures… I want to be clear that there is no requirement or even recommendation that LPS close a school or schools. There are currently no active cases and this new schedule is not in response to a new advisory.”
Entering the Longmeadow Public Schools (LPS) administration building, the hallways echo with discussion of the coronavirus. It’s definitely on administrators’ minds. The Massachusetts Department of Health (MDPH) has reported 108 cases in Massachusetts in their latest report Thursday, March 12. US cases have climbed to over 13,300 according to Johns Hopkins University data compiled from the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Hampden County does not have any cases. Governor Charlie Baker declared a State of Emergency on Tuesday and recommended public gatherings of over 50 people, out of state travel, and international travel be canceled.
Many northeast colleges, notably the University of Massachusetts, Boston University, Harvard University, Northeastern, and MIT, have shut down their campuses, opting for online teaching. Some public schools have also closed for disinfection, which LPS will be conducting during part of the planned professional development day students already have off on Friday. LHS has canceled a number of events including international field trips, out of state field trips, and events such as the district music concert. Superintendent Dr. Marty O’Shea wrote in an email to the school community, “I’m saddened that some of the restrictions we’ve put in place will cause staff and students to miss out on some exciting events and activities, but the emphasis is on, as much as possible and as much as we could safely do, to maintain regular school schedules, functions, and activities.” Some Boston area districts have closed down schools for two weeks or more. He says that LPS is currently initiating contingency planning and says “there’s no plans for school closure” as of now but emphasizes this is a “rapidly evolving [fluid] situation.”
In the chaos of the ever-changing news cycle, students have expressed concern that the Boys Hockey State Tournament, Sophomore Semi, and SAT testing could be impacted.
In Connecticut, which has reported four total cases as of Wednesday, according to their Dept. of Health, state sports tournaments have been canceled. The NBA has suspended play until further notice, the NCAA has canceled the “March Madness” tournament games, and the MLB and NHL have postponed their seasons. The MIAA Board of Directors voted Thursday to cancel the Basketball and Hockey state tournaments. This ends the season for Longmeadow’s Hockey Team who were due to play at TD Garden Sunday. The message posted on the MIAA website stated “we understand this is disappointing news however, this decision was made in the best interests of all our student athletes, schools and communities. Schools who would have been participating in the State Finals will be considered Co-Champions.” LHS Athletic Director Coach Micheal Capotosto says, “As of this [Thursday] morning spectators are being allowed to the state tournament games. As of right now, the plan is to go ahead with spring sports. The first few weeks are just practices with little to no games.”
Class of 2022’s Class President, Jonah Baressi, says “there’s definitely a possibility” Sophomore Semi could be canceled, however, “as of right now, it is still on. Could it change tomorrow? Maybe.” The decision will depend on whether this is considered a “public gathering,” but the final verdict rests with the administration.
According to Dr. O’Shea, a public gathering is “where there would be opportunities for groups of people who don’t normally interact, to have the chance to interact. So students typically interact with teachers, teachers typically interact with one another. [Public Health officials tell us that] we just need to limit the opportunities for groups to interact [who] don’t normally interact, the key part [being] as to slow down the spread [and] as to slow down transmission rates.” This is why assemblies are still allowed at schools despite converging more than 50 people in one area. Places considered public gathering areas in Longmeadow are closed. Storrs Library and the Council on Aging (Senior Center) are closed from March 12-31. According to Dr. O’Shea, SAT testing is likely to proceed as scheduled this Saturday. “They’re obviously an essential part of what we do and they do not involve the public to the degree that we would need to cancel,” he says. LPS has not received any communication from the College Board concerning the need to cancel or reschedule testing. However, SAT testing cancelations have affected 17 countries as of Wednesday.
The Robotics Club has also seen its tournaments impacted. According to junior Sontino Allentuck, a Robotics Club member, robotics tournaments planned for March and April were canceled. Scrimmages with Connecticut teams were also canceled. He says, “the robot is done, but we [do not] get a chance to compete with it.”
The Longmeadow Coronavirus Task Force, headed by Fire Chief John Dearborn, met for a meeting Wednesday morning to discuss what the State of Emergency declaration means for the town. The Select Board failed to hold a meeting Wednesday night because not enough Select Board members were present. Ms. Marie Angelides, the Select Board Chair, said the new requirements are that “if you are not feeling well, you are not supposed to attend public meetings.” The Finance Committee meeting proceeded with a public hearing Wednesday evening.
Wednesday, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the coronavirus outbreak a pandemic, acknowledging the virus will likely spread to all countries on the globe. According to STAT, a Boston based news service that reports on medical news, “the coronavirus causes mild respiratory infections in about 80% of those infected, though about half will have pneumonia. Another 15% develop severe illness, and 5% need critical care.” The WHO said 90% of total cases have occurred in four countries using this as evidence to support the rest of the world still has time to contain the pandemic. STAT reports, “WHO officials have argued for weeks that some countries were not moving rapidly enough to prepare for an outbreak or responding aggressively enough.” Declining to criticize specific countries, Mr. Mike Ryan, the head of the WHO’s emergency program said Wednesday, “You know who you are.” The US Federal response to the virus has come under increased scrutiny by states, officials, and media over a delayed and confused response to the outbreak. According to an investigation by The Atlantic the US had tested 4,384 people total as of Monday at 4 pm for the coronavirus. By this point in its outbreak, South Korea had tested more than 100,000 people for the disease, and it was testing roughly 15,000 people every day. The United Kingdom, where three people have died as a result of the coronavirus already, tested more than 24,900 people by Monday.
Wednesday night, in a televised address, President Donald Trump announced he was suspending travel coming from Europe (excluding the UK) for the next 30 days. His administration later clarified that this would only apply to foreign nationals. Trump confirmed this in a tweet where he also walked back remarks that trade would also be restricted for this period.
The CDC advises people to wash their hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds especially after you have been in a public place, or after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing. If soap and water are not readily available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands. Stay home if you are sick and cover all coughs and sneezes.
Read More About The WHO’s Pandemic Declaration: https://www.statnews.com/2020/03/11/who-declares-the-coronavirus-outbreak-a-pandemic/
The Atlantic’s Coronavirus Numbers By State: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/e/2PACX-1vRwAqp96T9sYYq2-i7Tj0pvTf6XVHjDSMIKBdZHXiCGGdNC0ypEU9NbngS8mxea55JuCFuua1MUeOj5/pubhtml#
Track Coronavirus Cases with JHU’s Live Coronavirus Case Tracking Map: https://www.arcgis.com/apps/opsdashboard/index.html#/bda7594740fd40299423467b48e9ecf6
MDPH Current Case Number (Updated at 4pm daily): https://www.mass.gov/doc/covid-19-cases-in-massachusetts-march-12-2020/download