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Coronavirus hits home; SGES cancels senior trip

Coronavirus has dominated the news for over a month but it seemed an issue only for those in countries far, far away like China where humans eat dogs and bats and the would-be plague sprang to life. Over the weekend the threat hit home for 15 seniors at St. George’s Episcopal School in Milner when their spring break trip to The Netherlands and Spain was cancelled at the last minute. ’We were supposed the leave Sunday and fly to Amsterdam for a couple of days then move on to Spain. We were watching closely. Cases in Spain started increasing rapidly and people from all over the world pass through the airport in Amsterdam. We consulted the CDC and others. We made the decision out of an abundance of caution,’ SGES headmaster Larry Collins said Monday. Administrators and parents were scrambling Monday for a domestic destination for what remains of spring break week for the students and three adult chaperones. ’I hate it. I really do. It cost the school a little bit of money. We weren’t really worried about someone getting the virus or surviving it if they did. These are healthy teenagers. We were worried about getting quarantined over there for 10-14 days and not being able to get back. Additionally, we had to worry about the health of 225 kids on campus not just the 15 on the trip. We just didn’t want to take that kind of risk,’ Collins continued. There were additional reports over the weekend of other groups and area travel agents tapping the brakes on international travel. Coronavirus has crippled China and hit the American economy hard. There are growing shortages of Chinese-made items, including – ironically – the surgical face masks used to ward off infectious diseases. They are hard to find locally. On Amazon, a 10-pack of masks that formerly cost four dollars is now $40. David Sandlin at Hines Pharmacy has masks and has ordered more though that order has not yet come in. He feels coronavirus will fade as the weather warms. ‘Viruses do not thrive in warm weather. Ebola was the exception. This virus is more like SARS. The southern hemisphere is not experiencing as many cases as the northern so I think it will be over in a couple of months,’ Sandlin said. The number one assistant to the supreme leader of Iran died of the virus over the weekend. The sacrament of communion has been altered at houses of worship worldwide as a safety measure. At press time Monday, 88 infections had been reported in the U.S. – two of them fatal. In our modern, mobile society that number is expected to grow exponentially. The symptoms of coronavirus are similar to those of the flu or a moderate upper respiratory tract illness: runny nose, sore throat, cough, headache and fever lasting two or three days. It spreads largely through contact with an infected person’s secretions like droplets from a cough or sneeze. Secretions on a hand can spread via handshake or other contact. The incubation period is 14 days and that is the length of time those possibly exposed should be quarantined and monitored. Vaccines are being developed but there is currently no sure way to avoid coronavirus. Meanwhile, take the same precautions you would with the flu. Cover your nose and mouth when you cough or sneeze. Disinfect surfaces you touch often. Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. Wash your hands with soap and water often and for at least 20 seconds each time.

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