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Orange County Schools Close Classrooms And Transition Online Amidst Coronavirus Concerns

Colleges and schools around Orange County are taking precautions in shutting down campuses as the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) to be a pandemic on Wednesday, March 11.

Health officials have reported that six people are confirmed or presumed to have COVID-19 in the county. Five of the cases are travel related, while one case is through person-to-person spread.

The New University reported that all final exams at UCI for winter quarter will be administered remotely. Chancellor Howard Gillman said in a statement that the university is making efforts to transition to “remote learning mode” for the following quarter, with a majority of classes being taught online. According to Gillman, events with over 100 attendees will be canceled.

“These decisions are made in support of the concept of “social distancing,” which is a public health concept to reduce the probability of contact between individuals who are or may be carrying a highly contagious disease,” Gillman said. “Science shows that reducing the concentration of people in an area can lower the infection risk for everyone involved.”

Following UCI’s announcement, Cal State Fullerton and Chapman University both announced they would transition to online instruction.

All community colleges in Orange County are preparing to teach classes online. Irvine Valley College and Saddleback College are preparing to begin the process for a “soft closure” from March 23 through May 1.

According to a statement from the South Orange County Community College District (SOCCCD), “classes that are able to be offered completely online will transition from hybrid or face-to-face course sections to a format that allows them to be offered at a distance rather than in a traditional classroom setting.”

Although the Tustin Unified School District announced that “school closures are not being recommended for our area at this time,” many private schools in the district are temporarily transitioning to online classes.

The Orange County Health Care Agency website advises that members of the public should avoid touching their eyes, nose or mouth. People should regularly and thoroughly clean their hands with an alcohol-based hand sanitizer or wash them with soap and water, and maintain a six foot distance from others who are coughing or sneezing. Masks should only be worn by those in contact with someone suspected of having COVID-19. If a person feels unwell, they should exhibit proper mask use and call a medical health care advisor in advance before proceeding.

For more information on COVID-19, please visit http://www.ochealthinfo.com/novelcoronavirus or https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html.

Chelsea Pan is a 2019-2020 City News Co-Editor. She can be reached at citynews@newuniversity.org.