Thousands Want Alhambra School Closures Over Coronavirus Fears; District Says There's No Need

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No cases of coronavirus have been reported in Alhambra but more than 14,000 people want the city's school district to cancel classes.

The district said Tuesday there are no plans to cancel classes and has advised against students wearing face masks to school, something public health officials have said is not effective in preventing the spread of the illness. School officials also said the Change.org petition calling for campus closures includes false claims — like speculation about a suspected case of coronavirus in Alhambra.

Of the 11 cases reported in the U.S., six are in California with most in the northern region of the state. One case has been reported in Los Angeles County while another is in Orange County.

"Studying while knowing that your life is in danger does not create a stable and safe learning environment," the online petition reads. "Although the chances of infection are low, they are not ZERO and we must be prepared and cautious for what might come."

But public health officials in Los Angeles County have said there is "no immediate threat to the general public" and "no special precautions are required." According to Alhambra School District Superintendent Denise Jaramillo, that's part of the reason why classes aren't being canceled.

"When you see a petition based on non-fact, our response is we have an obligation to get more information out — official, factual information so people aren’t making decisions out of fear," Jaramillo said.

The L.A. County Department of Public Health has advised taking special precautions, such as avoiding contact with others, only if one has traveled to Wuhan, China, the epicenter of the outbreak, or knows someone who has. As of Tuesday afternoon, the country has seen more than 20,000 cases including over 420 deaths.

"People should not be excluded from activities based on their race, country of origin, or recent travel if they do not have symptoms of respiratory illness," reads an advisory from the health department.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has advised against traveling to China but has also said people should not act out of fear-based "prejudice."

"Do not show prejudice to people of Asian descent, because of fear of this new virus," a recent CDC statement reads. "Do not assume that someone of Asian descent is more likely to have 2019-nCoV."

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