BOISE, Idaho (AP) - Several school districts and daycare centers across Idaho have closed in efforts to slow the spread of the coronavirus outbreak.
On Monday morning, there were five confirmed cases of COVID-19 - the illness caused by the new coronavirus - spread across the southern half of the state. Idaho Gov. Brad Little told school districts on Sunday that the choice to close should be made locally, and Idaho Department of Health and Welfare Director Dave Jeppesen cautioned schools that there was little evidence to show short-term school closures help to slow coronavirus spread.
But some parents and staffers at districts across the state urged school leaders to close schools. Bear Lake School District #33, Teton School District 401, Teton County, Wyoming, Lincoln County School District #2, Boise, Coeur d'Alene, Twin Falls, Nampa, Cassia, Lewiston and other districts made the decision to close.
The West Ada School District, which is the largest in the state with roughly 40,000 students in the Meridian area, made the decision to close late Sunday night after originally telling parents that schools would be open as usual on Monday.
"Over the weekend, we have agonized of the decision whether to close schools prior to spring break," Mary Ann Ranells, West Ada District superintendent wrote in an message to parents.
"We read your emails. We heard from staff. We watched what was being posted on social media. Based on parental and staff concerns about the spread of COVID-19, the decisions to keep schools open has been revised," she said.
The district, like several others around the state, is closed until March 30, a span that includes spring break week.
The Richard McKenna Charter School in the city of Mountain Home warned parents that one or more elementary students were exposed to COVID-19 by a family member that tested positive for the illness. They were placed under quarantine and were being monitored, school officials said, and the charter was closed until March 29.
People who attend Idaho State University's Meridian campus were also warned of a possible COVID-19 exposure, as well as members of the downtown Boise YMCA facility.
Hoping to ease the burden on healthcare workers, grandparent caregivers and hourly employees who can't stay home with their children, several districts opened emergency day camps for kids who have no other place to go while schools are closed. Volunteer groups and some restaurants also began organizing to ensure that children who rely on school meals are fed during the school closures.
The vast majority of people recover from the new virus. According to the World Health Organization, people with mild illness recover in about two weeks, while those with more severe illness may take three to six weeks to recover. More than 80,000 people in China have been diagnosed with the coronavirus. More than 65,000 have recovered.