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Menlo Park school district staff members asked to stay home over coronavirus concerns, fundraising event canceled

Widespread school closures 'may be just around the corner,' superintendent warns

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Staff members and a student in the Menlo Park City School District were asked to stay home today, March 6, after learning they may have been exposed to the novel coronavirus. The district's schools underwent cleanings yesterday evening (March 5) as a precaution, but remain open, school officials said.

In a Thursday evening email to parents, Superintendent Erik Burmeister said two district staff members have children who attend San Jose preschool Action Day Primary Plus, which closed Thursday after a teacher tested positive for the respiratory disease, also known as COVID-19, KTVU reported.

At least one district parent works at a company that sent employees home due to a COVID-19 diagnosis, and the district has asked the parent's child to stay home too.

The disease has infected more than 100,000 people globally.

"Currently MPCSD (Menlo Park City School District) has no known direct exposures," Burmeister said in the email. "However, the three known secondary or tertiary (two or three people removed) exposures make it clear that COVID-19 spread continues in our county. (On Thursday) Dr. Scott Morrow, MD, MPH, Public Health Officer of the San Mateo Health Department, shared this updated message to our county, which provides the honest recommendation to prepare that COVID-19 will remain with us for the foreseeable future. The threat will grow, the impacts will be uncomfortable at best, and important measures must be taken to limit the spread."

None of the three individuals who were possibly exposed to the virus is experiencing any cold or flu-like symptoms, he said. District officials made the decision to ask the staff members to stay home out of "an abundance of caution" until the district can determine whether further quarantine or medical testing is necessary. The student and staff members will stay home for 14 days unless they receive news before the end of that period that the relatives who may have been exposed are negative for COVID-19, said Parke Treadway.

Burmeister noted that Morrow and county Superintendent of Schools Nancy Magee said that it is too soon to close schools, but that "widespread school closures may be just around the corner and to prepare for that possibility."

Burmeister asked the district's maintenance department to bring in additional staff Thursday evening to support cleaning and disinfecting of all learning and common areas. The district is also sending in a team of cleaning professionals to continue "deep cleaning steps" throughout the weekend at the district's five campuses, which are in Menlo Park and Atherton.

While schools will remain open, Morrow recommended the cancellation of "all non-essential gatherings." The Menlo Park-Atherton Education Foundation canceled its Saturday, March 7, fundraising auction.

Parents were also given the option to keep their kids home from school on Friday.

The district is updating information on the situation on its website.

As of Friday, there are two confirmed cases of the illness in San Mateo County. There are 20 cases in the neighboring Santa Clara County, as of Thursday.

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