TAMPA, Fla. - Effective immediately, school officials will shut down Farnell Middle School for 48 hours after a person "with regular access to the campus" came in contact with someone who tested positive for the coronavirus. It is the first school in the Tampa Bay area to close as concerns grow over the virus spreading.
The Hillsborough County School District made the announcement Thursday morning. Incoming superintendent Addison Davis said the individual interacted with the coronavirus patient, who is not in Hillsborough County, within the last six days. Davis would not say if the individual is a student or employee.
Farnell Middle is located in the Westchase community at 13912 Nine Eagles Drive.
The individual hasn't shown any symptoms and self-isolated immediately, Davis said. A robocall and email was sent out to parents Thursday morning directing them not to send students to the campus or to a bus stop.
“No one will have accessibility at that school over the next 48 hours and potentially into spring break," Davis said. "This also goes for our employees as well. We want to make certain that we do take proactive steps for our students, but also protect the working conditions of our employees."
PREVIOUS COVERAGE: Bay Area schools taking coronavirus precautions
Law enforcement place a barrier at Farnell Middle after school officials announced a 48-hour closure. (FOX 13 News)
The two days of no school will be treated as hurricane days, which are built into the school calendar. Davis said it means students can remain in contact with teachers and can upload schoolwork into an online portal.
"Teachers will have external opportunities sitting outside of our school to continue to plan for the remaining semester," he said.
It will give time for the school to shut down the entire A/C system. This will allow air particles to "transition down" and do a deep-clean.
A vendor -- chosen weeks ago just in case a school faced this issue -- will do a "light thermal fog" in classrooms, offices and common areas to catch any air particles that were not spotted after the A/C was shut down, Davis explained.
"After that fog, we will go and do a deep-clean...to make sure our school is prepared for intake after spring break," Davis said. "This decision is based on children."
Davis said there are no current plans to close another public school in the county. There is no evidence this case has impacted any other school.
Spring break starts Saturday, March 14 for Hillsborough County public schools.
The full press conference with the Hillsborough County School District can be viewed below:
On Wednesday night, President Donald Trump addressed the nation and announced several measures to slow down the spread of the coronavirus, including a travel ban for flights coming from Europe, excluding the United Kingdom. He also warned citizens to avoid large crowds.
Davis asked that anyone who attends a Hillsborough County public school who may be returning from any foreign country to contact the school district.
"With spring break coming up, we know parents will be transitioning on their time, maybe potentially out of the state and out of the country that attends our school, we are asking you to contact us," he said, "and also the health department because we want to make certain that you do have that self-isolation period."
If you feel sick
The Florida Department of Health has opened a COVID-19 Call Center at 1-866-779-6121. Agents will answer questions Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Questions may also be emailed to email@example.com. Email responses will be sent during call center hours.
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