San Diego Unified School District closes schools in response to COVID-19 pandemic

Watch: Richard Barrera, San Diego Unified School Board Vice President – District D, was in studio to talk about the SDUSD closures.

SAN DIEGO (KUSI) – The San Diego Unified School District announced Friday that it will shutter all schools in the district starting Monday over concerns of the coronavirus spreading.

The schools will reopen April 6, unless conditions call for an extension, according to the district.

The Los Angeles Unified School District also announced Friday that it will close for the same duration.

LAUSD Superintendent Austin Beutner and SDUSD Superintendent Cindy Marten spoke by phone early Friday morning and later issued the following joint statement:

“California has now entered a critical new phase in the fight to stop the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic,” they said. “There is evidence the virus is already present in the communities we serve, and our efforts now must be aimed at preventing its spread. We believe closing the state’s two largest school districts will make an important contribution to this effort. For that reason, we plan to close, effective Monday, March 16.

“Later today, we will be providing students, parents and staff with more information on our plans to continue providing learning opportunities for students during the closure. We have also directed staff at both districts to prepare to continue providing nutrition and other supports through family resource facilities.”

The boards of the Los Angeles Unified and San Diego Unified School Districts have unanimously approved the action, according to the statement.

The two districts say that together, they serve more than 750,000.

Nearly 500 passengers from the Grand Princess cruise ship in Oakland will remain at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar Friday as part of a mandatory 14- day quarantine at the base.

Two additional flights arrived Thursday, bringing the total number of cruise ship evacuees housed at the base to around 480, the San Diego Union- Tribune reported. One flight, carrying 114 people, landed on base around 2:30 p.m. Thursday and another flight, carrying 90 passengers, landed around 9:30 p.m.

Roughly 270 cruise ship evacuees arrived at the base Wednesday afternoon, joining 42 passengers who arrived Tuesday.

The city and county of San Diego declared public health emergencies on Thursday, banning all mass gatherings of 250 or more people and announcing five new confirmed coronavirus cases.

Those five cases include:

— A woman in her 70s who was aboard the Grand Princess cruise ship and is in home isolation;

— A man in his 50s with a travel history to Colorado;

— A man in his 40s with a possible travel history to Colorado who is under investigation;

— A woman in her 70s — also a passenger on the ship — who was quarantined in Miramar and is now in a hospital isolation;

— And a man in his 50s in a hospital in isolation, who public health officials believe may be a community transmission.

This last case is especially concerning for city and county health, as it means the respiratory illness known as COVID-19 is “very likely” spreading among the community at large.

Meanwhile, 10News reported that a Marine stationed at MCAS Miramar tested positive for the virus after visiting family in Washington state.

Despite the hard 250-person ceiling, Superintendent of San Diego Unified School District Cindy Marten — who was recently granted emergency powers to address the virus by the school board — was cagey on what that meant for schools.

“It’s important to be prepared. We have plans to support our most vulnerable students,” she said on Thursday. “All decisions are made in concert with our public health agencies.”

Dr. Nick Yphantides, the county’s chief medical officer, put an immediate restriction on visitations to assisted-living homes, and enacted a public health order that employees of those facilities feeling ill must remain home in quarantine.

He said that with 4,200 total hospital beds in the county, cases would be triaged as they arrive. Those over the age of 65 with underlying health conditions or with suppressed immune systems would be treated first.

Dr. Wilma Wooten, the county’s health officer, said that those with symptoms similar to a bad cold or influenza would be sent home to self- quarantine.

The San Diego County Superior Court system also announced Thursday it will be postponing all civil jury trials for the next 30 days in order to meet state health guidelines regarding large crowds in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

All major sporting events have been suspended indefinitely across the U.S., impacting local teams including the SDSU men’s basketball team, the San Diego Padres and the San Diego Seals.

Gov. Gavin Newsom spoke Thursday on the disembarkation process of Grand Princess cruise ship and its potential cases of COVID-19.

“We are aware of a number of people who have tested positive that have come off ship in addition to the 21 who were originally tested,” Gov. Newsom said. “Two that were passengers, 19 that were crew members, one in Canada and one down in Miramar, but that information is coming in real time. That’s all I know about those individuals at this stage.”

More than 1,000 people on the cruise ship disembarked Tuesday and another 407 disembarked Monday.

The ship, which had roughly 3,500 people aboard — at least 900 of them Californians — was held off the coast of Northern California before it was allowed to dock in Oakland Monday.

Col. Charles Dockery, commanding officer MCAS Miramar, sent a letter to Marines, sailors and their families.

“The broad concept of our support will be the same as our previous efforts,” he wrote. “As with the previous mission, all passengers entering quarantine will have been deemed asymptomatic by health care professionals. Passengers will remain quarantined throughout the 14-day period and there will be no contact with DOD personnel.”

Other California residents from the cruise ship will be housed at Travis Air Force Base northeast of Oakland.

Cruise ship passengers who are residents of other states were being taken to Joint Base San Antonio Lackland in Texas or Dobbins Air Force Base in Georgia.

This is the second time Miramar has been used as a quarantine facility due to coronavirus. More than 200 people who were evacuated from Wuhan, China — the epicenter of the outbreak — were housed at the facility last month. Two of those people eventually tested positive for the virus, but they were hospitalized and have since recovered and been released.

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Categories: Coronavirus, Good Evening San Diego, Local San Diego News