‘Very real possibility’ that Illinois school shutdown will be extended as coronavirus cases nearly double overnight
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‘Very real possibility’ that Illinois school shutdown will be extended as coronavirus cases nearly double overnight

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SPRINGFIELD — Two days into the statewide school shutdown prompted by the coronavirus, Illinois education officials are indicating it could last more than the two weeks originally planned, stating they don’t yet know the full extent of the closures.

“There is a very real possibility of the closure extending beyond March 30,” according to an ISBE presentation to administrators, which reiterated that “future decisions regarding the statewide school closure will be made in consultation with public health officials.”

It’s not clear what the timeline is for making those decisions.

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The vast majority of people recover from the virus. According to the World Health Organization, people with mild illness recover in about two weeks, while those with more severe illness may take three to six weeks to recover.

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Gov. J.B. Pritzker decreed last week that all Illinois schools, public and private, will remain shut from March 17 through March 30 to help slow the spread of the virus behind the global pandemic. Illinois announced Wednesday that the total numbers of confirmed cases in the state has grown to 288, up from 160 the previous day.

That’s left some schools scrambling to set up remote or e-learning options for students and guide parents who have never home-schooled before. The situation is also prompting a number of questions about how to account for students’ work during this unprecedented shutdown, especially if it is prolonged.

To that end, guidance from state education officials on whether student work can be graded during the closures has been evolving.

Restaurants and bars also have been ordered to stop serving dine-in customers and stick to carryout or delivery options.

Even with those efforts to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, “these numbers will get much worse in Illinois before they get better,” Pritzker said Wednesday at a daily update on the state's response.

Pritzker said essential services will remain open in Illinois, including groceries and pharmacies. He has enlisted 60 members of the National Guard so far for various missions, including delivery of meals to children who received food through their schools.

They also could help hospitals prepare outdoor screening areas for people who want to be tested for the coronavirus, allowing separation from other patients headed to an emergency room, he said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 


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