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Bay Area Schools Brace For Coronavirus; 2 Palo Alto Students Sent Home As Precaution

PALO ALTO (CBS SF) -- Across the San Francisco Bay Area from elementary schools to universities, administrators were scrambling to formulate strategies of how to handle the current coronavirus outbreak.

On Friday, out of an abundance of caution, the Palo Alto Unified School District sent the two students home after their parent may have been exposed to the coronavirus.

They will be kept home until more information is provided to school officials. One student attends Palo Alto High School, while the other is a student at JSL Middle School.

"PAUSD has formed a core team designated to assess and provide information on updates as received," a letter from PAUSD Superintendent Don Austin read that was sent to all parents. "We recognize that the unknown can be concerning and will continue to provide regular updates as we have them."

It wasn't just Palo Alto that was wrestling with how to address the threat of the illness and how to calm the concerns of parents.

An outbreak of gastroenteritis forced San Francisco officials to close Presidio Middle School on Friday. As many as 155 students reported symptoms consistent with gastroenteritis.

Quickly a letter was sent out by SFUSD Superintendent Dr. Vincent Matthews telling parents the school closing was in no way associated with the coronavirus.

"The symptoms being reported by students are consistent with gastroenteritis, not other viruses," the letter read. "There are no confirmed cases of COVID-19, previously referred to as "coronavirus," in San Francisco."



The California Department of Education said it was working closely with the local school districts to hammer out a strategy. But that strategy, for now, would not be a one solution fits all approach.

"Any decisions to close schools as a result of the coronavirus would be made by individual county health agencies and school districts," state officials said in an email to KPIX 5.

Closing schools was not the only strategy on the table. Many schools and universities were also considering offering online cases to keep students away from crowded classrooms.

Madeline Bragg attends Santa Clara University and has been told online classes are a definite possibility.

"We go to Santa Clara University and apparently they have plans in place that if the coronavirus spreads to our campus that we would all just take online classes instead of going to actual classrooms," she told KPIX 5 as she was shopping with friends Friday night.

Northern California currently is ground zero for the outbreak in the United States, but new confirmed cases were being reported everyday in a handful of other states.

Two patients in Northern California were being treated for contracting the virus from an unknown source -- they have not traveled to China, been in contact with anyone how had or been on a cruise ship. One of the patients was in Santa Clara County and the second a Solano County woman who was being treated at UC Davis Medical Center.

A couple dozen other patients with confirmed cases of coronavirus from among the evacuees of the Diamond Princess, who were airlifted to Travis Air Force Base from Japan, had been spread out for treatment at medical centers all across the Bay Area.


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