MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Though there have not been any cases in Florida, state officials and local authorities have begun taking steps over coronavirus concerns.

South Florida universities announced they are restricting travel where cases have been detected.

Florida International University joins the University of Miami and Florida Atlantic University in halting study abroad programs to areas affected by the virus.

FIU’s provost and executive vice president Kenneth G. Furton had this to say, “Under the advisement of our International Travel Committee, I am advising the university community that all travel on behalf of FIU (individual trips or study abroad programs) to Italy, Singapore, Japan and South Korea is restricted effective immediately.”

Earlier this month, UM suspended all university-affiliated travel to China.

“All university-affiliated study abroad programs to China for the 2020 spring and summer semesters have been postponed,” officials said.

“Only essential university-affiliated travel to Italy and South Korea will be permitted, and travel should be delayed if possible.”

FAU has expanded the suspension of university-related travel to include China and South Korea.

Miami-Dade County Public Schools is not taking any chances. At a press conference on Wednesday, Superintendent Alberto Carvahlo detailed the adjustments they’ve made to their pandemic plan.

“Its arrival in this country was not a matter of if, but when it would happen and where and how far and how widespread,” said Carvalho. “We began awareness campaigns with schools and community of parents.”

Carvalho detailed parts of the plan:

  • Adding hand sanitizer to buses, school entrances, cafeterias and anywhere students congregate.
  • Staying in constant communication with local and state health department, and the CDC if needed.
  • Distributing information through pamphlets and PSA Videos.
  • Set up registration centers for international students as they come in with certified health care professionals on site.
  • Offer resources for parents and teachers on how to talk to kids about coronavirus.
  • Offer counseling support for kids.
  • Have a backup plan for continuing education if a school or schools had to be shut down so students can learn from home through digital technology.
  • Cancel overseas trips, including one to Italy.

The Broward County Public Schools system wants to ensure that school personnel, staff, and parents keep informed about the Novel Coronavirus. The District will keep sharing information available on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website and resources from the District’s Coordinated Student Health Services regarding keeping children healthy.

Broward schools chief, Robert Runcie had this to say: “We have a plan that we are putting in place at the district in case we do get an outbreak at a particular school. It is something that we are on alert for.”

Health officials warned that the spread to the US was inevitable.

“It’s not so much of a question of if this will happen in this country anymore but a question of when,” said Nancy Messonnier, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases.

“We are asking the American public to work with us to prepare in the expectation that this could be bad,” she said. “I continue to hope that in the end we’ll look back and feel like we are overprepared, but that is a better place to be in than being underprepared.”

State of Florida Surgeon General Scott Rivkees released the following statement:

“We have fully engaged our health community, hospitals, medical providers and County Health Departments to respond. We are also working lockstep with the Centers for Disease Control and Surveillance. There are ‘NO’ confirmed cases of coronavirus in Florida. However, if any were to arise, we are prepared to contain this new infection, help any individuals sickened by the virus and keep Florida safe.”

Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez has called a meeting to take place Thursday with key community agencies to prepare a contingency plan for the potential spread of Coronavirus.

“I think a parent should worry but not to the point of being upset,” said Dr. Rose Mary Stiffin, head of the health and natural sciences department at Florida Memorial University.

Dr. Stiffen points to Miami International Airport and the PortMiami as being pathways for the coronavirus to get here.

“Not only for the Miami area, but L.A. and New York where there is going to be international flights coming in on a daily basis,” she said.

The CDC says, “The novel coronavirus is not that same as the coronaviruses that commonly circulate among humans and cause mild illness, like the common cold.”

Symptoms related to the virus include: Mild to severe respiratory illness with fever, cough, and difficulty breathing.

The World Health Organization has called the spread of the coronavirus a global health emergency.

Frances Wang

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