CHICAGO — The Archdiocese of Chicago announced it will close all of its schools beginning Monday and has canceled Sunday Masses to help quell the spread of the coronavirus.
Students will switch to an E-learning curriculum, the archdiocese said, adopting the same measure other schools around the country are adopting amid the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.
After-school activities, social events and school-related gatherings are also canceled. Schools and facilities will receive “extra cleaning” while closed, according to the Archdiocese.
The Archdiocese has not determined how long the schools will be closed for, but it will make an announcement when it decides on a date the schools will reopen.
“I encourage you to continue to pray for God’s grace throughout this time of uncertainty,” Supt. Jim Rigg wrote in a letter to parents. “Let us pray for the health and wellbeing of our Catholic school community and all our brothers and sisters affected by the epidemic.”
The Archdiocese manages about 200 schools with about 70,000 students enrolled, according to the Sun-Times.
Sunday Masses are canceled pending further notice, according to a tweet from father Peter Wojcik. Instead, priests have been asked to celebrate private Masses “to pray for healing, city and all people of God,” Wojcik wrote in his tweet.
Chicago Public Schools remain open and there were no plans to close them as of Friday morning.
That decision surprised many, particularly as districts around the country have closed in recent days.
During a news conference, Mayor Lori Lightfoot acknowledged Catholic schools in the city were closing.
But Lightfoot and Dr. Allison Arwady, head of the Chicago Department of Public Health, said there’s currently no reason to close CPS schools — and doing so could have a negative effect on the students they serve and their families due to the district’s unique population.
“We know our parents are diverse who they are, what their employment is, and when we close schools that means in a lot of instances parents have to stay home,” Lightfoot said. “That could mean that we’re taking nurses out of hospitals, doctors out of hospitals.
“We also know that many of our parents are hourly workers and they would have to stay home because of the cost and/or availability of childcare.”
Closing CPS schools could lead to students not being able to access food and shelter during the day, Lightfoot said.
And often when students are kept home they’re sent to their grandparents for babysitting — which could create a risk for elderly people, who are most at risk from coronavirus, Arwady said.
Coronavirus can be deadly, but the vast majority of cases have been mild. Those most at risk from the virus are people who are elderly or who have underlying health conditions.
Symptoms of coronavirus can appear two to 14 days after a person has been exposed to the virus, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
The virus spreads between people through coughing and sneezing, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health.
- Shortness of breath
How To Protect Yourself
The CDC only recommends those are already sick wear facemasks because they help you avoid spreading the virus.
Here’s what you can actually do to prevent getting ill:
- The CDC and other officials have said people should wash their hands often, including before, during and after eating; after using the bathroom; and after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing.
The CDC has a guide here for how to properly wash your hands. Remember: Wash with soap and water, scrubbing your hands for at least 20 seconds.
- If you can’t wash your hands with soap and water, you can use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health.
- Avoid touching your face, especially your eyes, nose and mouth, with unwashed hands.
- Clean and disinfect objects and surfaces you touch frequently, like cellphones and light switches. Here are tips from the CDC.
- Stay home when you’re sick and avoid close contact with people who are sick.
- If you have to sneeze with a tissue, throw it out immediately after using it, according to the CDC.
What To Do If You Think You’re Sick
Even if you’re not showing symptoms, the Chicago Department of Public Health recommends people coming from high-risk countries (here’s a CDC list) self-quarantine for 14 days after returning home.
If you do have symptoms of coronavirus, contact your primary doctor or a health care facility before going in. Explain your symptoms and tell them if you’ve come into close contact with anyone with coronavirus or traveled to an area where corona is widespread (here’s a CDC list) within the last 14 days, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health.
From there, the experts will work with your local health department to determine what to do and if you need to be tested for coronavirus, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health.
And, of course, if you think you’re sick with coronavirus, don’t risk exposing other people to the virus.
Those with questions and concerns about coronavirus can call the Illinois Department of Public Health at 800-889-3931.
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