By Madeline Farber
Published February 05, 2020
More than 14,000 people are calling for one California school district to temporarily close its doors amid the global outbreak of the novel coronavirus that’s killed nearly 500 people as of Wednesday.
The Change.org petition calls on the Alhambra Unified School District, which is located east of Los Angeles and is comprised of 21 schools and some 16,500 students, to cancel classes as the virus continues to spread. To date, there are no cases of coronavirus in Alhambra. It’s not clear who created the call to action, though ABC7 reported it may have been penned by a student.
“The virus has already made a name for itself by killing many individuals in China as well as spreading to other countries at a rapid pace,” the petition reads in part. It also called for students to wear “protective face masks” to “protect students and others from receiving or transmitting the sickness.” However, there’s little evidence that such masks actually work. What's more, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) doesn't currently recommend the general public to wear surgical masks.
Despite the petition, which had more than 14,200 signatures as of Wednesday, school district officials have no plans to cancel classes, Toby Gilbert, a spokesperson for the district, confirmed to Fox News on Wednesday.
"We believe when we seek out and share facts and use science to guide our decisions, we all are safer," Gilbert said in an email, stressing there is currently no coronavirus threat at the 21 schools within the district. "When we seek out social media rumors and treat them as fact, we are not safe."
Gilbert also told the Pasadena Star-News that the district has sent letters and emails to parents in an attempt to squelch rumors and assuage fears. “When there is a disease outbreak, there is a fear outbreak. Fear outbreaks are not based on facts, they are based on false rumors that are spread as facts," Gilbert added.
At least six cases of coronavirus have been confirmed in California — two of which were confirmed in Southern California, in Los Angeles County, and in Orange County.
The death toll from coronavirus reached 490 on Wednesday. More than 24,000 people have been infected worldwide. Overall, at least 25 countries have reported cases of coronavirus. Currently, the U.S. has confirmed 11 cases. Aside from the six in California, there has been one case in Arizona, one in Washington state, one in Massachusetts and two in Illinois. No deaths have been reported in the U.S., and the large majority of cases still remain in China.