School districts, UofSC preparing in case coronavirus spreads to S.C.

School districts, UofSC preparing in case coronavirus spreads to S.C.

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - The South Carolina Department of Education and the Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) are compiling information for schools to start preparing should an outbreak of the coronavirus hit the Palmetto state.

The University of South Carolina is also taking measures to protect its students at home, and those studying abroad.

Right now, there are no confirmed cases of the virus in South Carolina, but these agencies say they’re working to make sure they’re prepared.

The school systems say it’s flu season, so they’re already taking some of the same precautions -- like encouraging students and teachers to wash their hands and to avoid frequently touching their eyes, nose and mouth.

At the University of South Carolina, the coronavirus has affected students’ study abroad trips.

School officials say they’ve brought home all students who were studying abroad in China, and they are closely monitoring the coronavirus outbreak in other countries. They said they will communicate with students directly if they need to return to the U.S.

Some students say they’re canceling spring break trips abroad and others are contemplating studying abroad because of the virus outbreak.

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“I was hoping to visit maybe an Asian country, like Japan or China, or even go to Europe, but even there it’s kind of spreading, so maybe I should not go next semester," Praj Patel, a junior at UofSC, said.

School districts across the Midlands received an email from DHEC and the State Department of Education, which explains if a student develops a fever or respiratory symptom at school within two weeks of returning from an area where the virus is present, then the student should be immediately placed in a separate room with supervision while a school official calls the child’s family.

DHEC also says it has the capability to test for the coronavirus, if possible cases show up in South Carolina.

On Tuesday, the Department of Education says it will host a joint meeting with DHEC to come up with a protocol and disaster response plan, in the event the virus spreads to this area.

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