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Alabama school officials cancel overseas travel over coronavirus concerns

While there have been no confirmed coronavirus cases in Alabama yet, officials continue to update plans and prepare for what may come.
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MONTGOMERY, Ala. — The Alabama Department of Education has asked local school systems to disallow school-sponsored overseas travel as the department works to prevent a coronavirus outbreak. 

Mackey said that the state Department of Education has asked that local school districts cancel overseas travel “over the next several weeks.” 

“It’s not necessarily just about catching the virus overseas but we are seeing a rash of confinement overseas and quarantine,” Mackey said. 

Mackey said the decision to restrict overseas travel came within the last two weeks “as more and more countries were starting to quarantine both their own citizens and international travelers. We decided it’d be better not to put our students in that kind of risk.” 

Mackey said that while there have been no confirmed coronavirus cases in Alabama yet, officials continue to update plans and prepare for what may come. He said they’ve also requested that school systems inform the state Department of Health and school administration if a student, parent or faculty member travels overseas, or to any of the hotspots where there’s been a coronavirus outbreak, such as in Kirkland, Washington. 

“If any of those people begin to have symptoms, flu-like symptoms, then we ask that they go to the health department, to their medical provider. One way or the other they need to be tested, if their doctors advise them to be tested,” Mackey said. 

If a student or faculty member tests positive for COVID-19 Mackey said that school would be closed for between 24 and 48 hours and the situation assessed. 

Speaking on the numbers of new coronavirus cases, Brian Hastings, director of the Alabama Emergency Management Agency, said during the press conference that recent data shows “that we’re increasing about 25 to 30 percent daily, so about every four days we should expect the numbers to double, so no one should be surprised by that.” 

Hastings said that while there are no confirmed cases in Alabama, “that doesn’t necessarily mean we don’t have a case Alabama.” 

As testing becomes more available the numbers of infected people may rise, he said, “so to wait for those numbers is not the time to start preparing.” 

“These are the conversations that we need to have, and I hope that you’re having them with your family, your children because I’m having them with my family,” Hastings said. 

Hastings said the data is showing that children aren’t as badly impacted by coronavirus as the elderly, who are dying at much higher rates due to the virus that the young. 

He urged people to wash their hands thoroughly, cover their coughs, avoid shaking hands, clean all workspaces and to think about “social distancing.” 

“Because, if you do the non-pharmaceutical measures well, you can reduce the transmissivity of an infectious disease by 15 to 20 percent. That is significant,” Hastings said. “As you’re hearing talk right now in the media, some of the medical systems are being overwhelmed locally, and maybe regionally.”

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