20200314_MET_COV_HEALTH_JW03

Gov. Ralph Northam met with health care providers at Richmond Community Hospital on Friday to discuss the coronavirus. Rhodes Ritenour, vice president for external and regulatory affairs, left, addressed the governor during the meeting. At right is hospital president Leigh Sewell.

Gov. Ralph Northam has ordered all schools across the state to close for at least two weeks, beginning March 16 and continuing through March 27 at the earliest.

The announcement Friday came a day after the governor announced a state of emergency in Virginia, a response to the threat posed by the novel coronavirus. On Friday, the number of diagnosed cases of COVID-19 in the state had risen from nine on Wednesday to 30, according to the Virginia Department of Health.

Northam said closing schools is an attempt to minimize the exposure to the virus and “keep Virginians as safe and healthy as possible.”

“I recognize this will pose a hardship on many families, but closing our schools for two weeks will not only give our staff time to clean and disinfect school facilities, it will help slow the spread of this virus," Northam said. "This is a fluid and fast-changing situation. We will do everything possible to ensure that students who rely on school nutrition programs continue to have access to meals, and that the disruption to academics is as minimal as possible.”

Locally, Fredericksburg and Stafford and Spotsylvania counties will be on spring break next week. Students in those divisions brought home suggested learning activities in preparation for schools to be closed beyond the end of next week. Stafford and Spotsylvania posted the resources online.

Caroline and King George county schools do not have scheduled spring break until April. On Friday afternoon, Caroline County Public Schools assistant superintendent Herbert Monroe said division administration was preparing to send home a message to families about plans for the unscheduled closure.

He said families will be able to access a website called “continuity of instruction.” Hard copies of the curriculum will also be available for families to pick up during specified hours on Tuesday and Wednesday of next week at the five Caroline County schools.

“We’ve been talking about this and planning for over a week,” Monroe said. “But we’ve had this specific plan in place for the last three days.”

Earlier in the day Friday, King George County Schools Superintendent Robert Benson announced that school would be closed on Monday and Tuesday of next week for cleaning and disinfecting, and would be in session three days a week thereafter.

On Friday afternoon, the division updated its website with Northam’s notice and said it would post new information as it becomes available. ​

Adele Uphaus-Conner: 540/735-1973

auphaus@freelancestar.com

@flsadele

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