by Ella Casey ’22
After three confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) appeared in Maryland Governor Larry Hogan declared a state of emergency on March 5. Schools throughout the state immediately began consulting health officials on the question of student safety and, by extension, the necessity of any school closures.
Now with a total of nine confirmed cases as of March 12, the number of infected in Maryland have no doubt caused an exponential rise in alarm. With over half of these cases being from Montgomery County, there has been speculation about if MCPS should be closing schools in the next couple weeks. Partly prompted by one of the infected reportedly having visited the Village in Rockville, pressure built up among local communities and led to the creation of a petition for MCPS schools to shut down, with already over 11,000 signatures as of March 11.
On the other hand, there is concern about the effect suspending schools may have on long-term education for many students; would students need to attend classes over the summer or perhaps an entire semester extra to make up for the time lost? Colleges like Towson have been preparing for the possibility of switching to online education while the schools are closed so that the students may not delay their education. In addition, many schools have been cancelling travel abroad programs in order to protect the health of the students.
While the virus is dangerous and people must be prepared, panic can lead to further danger and the spread of misinformation. Across the country, people have flooded Home Depots and local grocery stores to stock up on supplies like face masks, which, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), only prevents the spread and not contraction of the virus. Additionally, fake stories about coronavirus have been popping up, including one about local high school Richard Montgomery. The circulating rumor states that a student attending Richard Montgomery had contact with one of the infected individuals and thus spread the disease around the school. Such false stories escalate through social media, spreading misinformation all over the county causing students and parents heavy concern and fear.