MIAMI (CBSMiami) – The Broward County School District says schools remain open despite the widening coronavirus outbreak.
At a news conference Thursday afternoon, Broward Schools Superintendent Robert Runcie explained the district’s rationale.
“We don’t have any confirmed cases in our schools at this point, either student or employee,” he said. “We don’t see a need to do that at the present moment.”
Runcie said the district could change its mind as the coronavirus situation changes, but he said closing schools comes with major costs.
“Closing a school or an entire district has enormous ramifications,” Runcie said. “It has impacts on the economy. It has impacts on the healthcare system.”
Runcie said the school district is taking significant action. They’re cancelling after all athletic and after school activities starting Monday as well as all school sponsored trips within the state starting Monday. Runcie said they’re also amping up their cleaning of high frequency areas like door handles, bathrooms and water fountains while focusing on prevention efforts.
“We have weeks of supplies at our schools and our warehouse,” Runcie said.
At least one teacher disagrees with Runcie’s assessment, however. A teacher reached out to CBS 4 News late Thursday after seeing our coverage of Runcie’s news conference earlier in the day. The teacher questioned the district’s commitment to cleaning and sanitizing schools, saying they don’t have adequate cleaning supplies at their school and, despite multiple efforts, there are none to purchase at stores.
Runcie is also promising that schools used as polling places in next Tuesday’s Florida primary will be properly cleaned afterwards.
“Those polling areas will be sanitized prior to students returning to school,” Runcie said.
Next week is a short week for Broward Schools and spring break starts on March 23, so there’s a natural break built in to the schedule. Runcie says the district has options like virtual school if they need to shut down for a time, but for now it’s business as usual.
“Safety comes first,” he said. “We have to make sure that we’re taking the appropriate precautions.”
Broward County leaders are beginning to cancel major public events to control the spread of the virus.
County residents can find more information at broward.org/coronavirus.
Tourism in Broward is being impacted by the virus.
At Fort Lauderdale Hollywood International Airport the European air travel ban has had an impact.
Norwegian Airlines is one of many airlines that flies out Fort Lauderdale. It has 6 flights to Europe, per week, and will be impacted by President Donald Trump’s order.
On Wednesday night, President Trump addressed the nation to announce the temporary suspension of European flights to the US.
We talked to Diane Lavigne, who just arrived from Canada with a supply of masks and gloves.
“When I arrived at 3 a.m. in the morning in Montreal, I put them on and have been wearing them ever since. I will take them off ten minutes from now when I go outside,” said Lavigne.
Princess Cruise Lines is stopping service for two months, but regular Carnival Cruises are still operating normally.
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Lester and Verna Nevens just flew in from Detroit to begin their five day Carnival Bahamas cruise.
They mailed CBSMiami on what they are doing.
“Sanitizing, taking our temperatures. It’s something they should have done a long time ago.”
The county is stepping up sanitation at all government entities.
The governor has set new temporary rules restricting who can visit senior facilities, those most at risk of contracting COVID-19.
The Florida Department of Health posted the following on their web page: “If you have returned from any international travel or a cruise within the last 14 days and you have fever cough or shortness of breath call, your health care provider or county health department.”