The coronavirus pandemic has caused school shutdowns in Ohio, Michigan, Maryland, Oregon, New Mexico and West Virginia, with facilities closed until further notice, according to USA Today, with the governor of Kentucky advising similar measure. These states are among the first to take such measures, but may not be the last.
On Thursday, Ohio Governor Mike DeWine announced that all public, private, and charter K-12 schools in the Buckeye State are closed for the next three weeks, beginning Monday. His announcement was followed later that day by Maryland's superintendent, who announced a two-week closure of schools. Then in Michigan, Governor Gretchen Whitmer canceled school in her state through April 5. Other states made similar decisions Thursday night and on Friday.
Outside of statewide school closings, individual school districts are also shutting down on their own. Two major urban school districts, those of San Francisco and Seattle, have closed; the closure is scheduled through April 3 in San Francisco, and for two weeks in Seattle. Elsewhere in Washington, Governor Jay Inslee has ordered schools closed in King, Pierce and Snohomish Counties, those hit hardest by the virus.
In Ohio, DeWine noted that the coronavirus isn't believed to be particularly dangerous to children. However, out of concern that children can spread the virus to one another, and potentially bring it home to their families, DeWine said that the decision has been made to shutter the state's schools.
"We have a responsibility to save lives," he said.
Similarly, in Washington, Governor Jay Inslee said, in remarks via Tacoma's KCPQ-TV, that shutting down schools is one way of slowing down the transmission of the virus.
"We do not expect this to slow down and it will not slow down unless we take action. Closing schools will slow the transmission of this virus," Inslee said.Across the country, more than 10,000 schools have closed, affecting nearly 4.9 million children.
Though the school closures are carried out with the noble intention of protecting the children from getting sick, keeping kids out of school can have negative effects on them, say children's advocates.
Betsy Zorio, vice president of U.S. programs at international children's charity Save the Children, noted that, if kids aren't in school (and don't have access to online portals or other forms of remote instruction), they aren't learning.
"Wide-scale learning loss could be among the biggest impacts coronavirus has on children in America. With an unprecedented number of school closures already announced and many more expected, ensuring that children can continue to learn is essential," she said.
As of this writing, according to NBC News, there have been over 1,500 confirmed coronavirus cases in the U.S., with 41 deaths. None of those deaths have involved children.