Schoolchildren in Ohio are in for a long spring vacation starting Monday, as the state's governor has ordered all of the schools closed for three weeks in response to the ongoing global outbreak of the new coronavirus — formally known as COVID-19.
Republican Gov. Mike DeWine made the announcement in a Twitter thread Thursday afternoon, in which he explained that while children were at low risk of dying from the fast-spreading disease if they don't have underlying medical problems, they could potentially carry the virus.
"We have today again consulted with experts, so we are announcing today that children in the state will have an extended spring break of 3 weeks. We will review it afterwards." DeWine tweeted. explaining that the prolonged adjournment would begin on Monday.
"We will continue to consult with educators on this," the governor said in a subsequent tweet. "We have to take this action. We have to do everything we can to slow down the spread of this virus."
The governor also explained in the announcement that the closure will apply to all K-12 institutions in the state, including private and charter schools.
"We know #COVID19 will spread, but by slowing it down it'll allow our healthcare system to work," DeWine explained. "We don't want our healthcare providers to have to make the decision of who lives and who dies."
While Buckeye state students from kindergarteners to high school seniors may find cause to rejoice over the extra time away from the classroom, the extended break is also likely to put a strain on working parents who will now have to figure out child care plans for the next three weeks — a reality that the governor also addressed on Thursday.
"We know this will impact families," DeWine conceded in the announcement. "We understand the sacrifice this will entail, but this is the right thing to do." He later added that his administration "have waited to close schools, but based on advice from health experts, this is the time to do it."
As of Thursday afternoon, there were five confirmed cases of the virus in the state and more than 330 people under "health supervision," according to numbers from the Ohio Department of Health.
DeWine also announced Thursday afternoon that the Department of Health would issue "an order banning mass gatherings" of over 100 people, which he said would include "auditoriums, stadiums, arenas, large conference rooms, meeting halls, cafeterias, or any other confined indoor or outdoor space" but would not include "normal operations" at places like shopping malls or airports, "typical office environments," or religious services.
State officials have also taken steps to protect elderly citizens, who are especially vulnerable to the virus. DeWine's school closure announcement comes just one day after directors for the state's health department and the Ohio Department of Veterans' Services issued a joint order limiting nursing home and assisted living facility residents to receiving one visitor per day. The order also requires that people entering the facilities be screened for signs of illness.