Maryland and Ohio officials have announced that schools in their states will be closed for several weeks amid concerns about the coronavirus. The statewide closures come after many school districts and dozens of colleges and universities have temporarily closed because of the COVID-19 disease.
According to an analysis from Education Week, as of Thursday evening, "at least 10,600 schools have been closed or are scheduled to close, affecting at least 4.9 million students." That is a small but quickly growing fraction of the approximately 50 million students in K-12 public and private schools in the United States.
Twelve people have tested positive for the virus in Maryland, though according to state officials, three have already made a full recovery. Five have tested positive in Ohio.
In Maryland, the decision to close public schools for two weeks was prompted by a patient in his 60s outside Washington, D.C., who tested positive for the disease with no known exposure to it from travel or a previously known infected individual. That suggests it is spreading within the community.
"The circumstances of this case indicate that we are entering a new phase of this crisis in our state," Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan told reporters. "We should expect the number of cases to dramatically and rapidly rise. Our primary focus is now turning from containment to aggressively working to mitigate and limit the spread of the virus."
The school closures in that state are scheduled from March 16 to 27. Karen Salmon, state superintendent of schools, told reporters that school buildings and buses will be thoroughly cleaned during the break.
Maryland state officials are working to make sure that during this time, students are still able to access meals, given that school meals are a crucial source of nutrition for many children.
Hogan said state officials are also taking a range of other measures, including requiring some state employees to telework, limiting public access to state buildings, prohibiting gatherings of over 250 people and readying the National Guard.
This comes on the same day that many other governors across the country announced a wide range of measures to contain the spread of the virus.
Earlier on Thursday, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine announced that the state's kids would have "an extended spring break of 3 weeks" starting on Monday. That includes public, private and charter K-12 schools.
"During this extended period of closure, schools should work to provide education through alternative means and school district leadership may make decisions on whether to use their school buildings," the governor's office said in a statement. The state's Department of Education is also working on a strategy to continue providing meals for children.
Kentucky also appears poised to close many schools across the state. "Effective Monday, March 16, [Gov. Andy] Beshear is suggesting Kentucky's schools suspend in-person classes for at least two weeks," according to the state's Education Department.
School closures are even affecting whole countries. On Thursday evening, Belgium and Portugal announced that schools nationwide would be shutting down because of the coronavirus.