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Gov. Laura Kelly on Sunday asked K-12 schools in Kansas to close for the coming week, allowing time for a task force of educators to develop a long-term plan for completing the school year under intensifying concerns with COVID-19.
The governor said she was "strongly recommending" but not mandating the shuttering of schools to allow each district to decide the best course of action. However, she said she expects all districts will comply.
Meanwhile, the state health department issued recommendations for travelers to quarantine at home if they visit certain areas of the country.
Kelly called the coronavirus pandemic an "unprecedented challenge" and repeated her frequent talking points: There is no need to panic, the state is prepared to use all resources necessary and residents should be mindful of proper hygiene and social distancing.
"It is time to be aware of the need to be very careful," Kelly said. "It is time to be respectful of others who are vulnerable. It is time to use common sense safety measures."
The state so far has confirmed the novel coronavirus in eight residents, with all but two infected while traveling outside of Kansas. One individual has died from the virus.
Those numbers could multiply in the coming days if they follow trends in other areas.
Kelly said a task force led by the Kansas State Department of Education will put together a plan this week to address challenges, such as moving classes online, providing meals for children, providing child care for essential workers who can’t stay home and keeping children from congregating in public places.
"We need an approach that achieves educational goals while also providing a safe environment for our students and acting in the best interest of public health," Kelly said.
New guidelines from the Kansas Department of Health and Environment recommend self isolation for Kansas residents who travel on or after Sunday to regions with known widespread community transmission of the illness. Those travelers are asked to quarantine at home for 14 days upon return.
The recommended quarantine covers travelers to California, New York, Washington state and international locations, as well as individuals who go on a cruise ship. Anyone who has visited Eagle, Summit, Pitkin and Gunnison counties in Colorado within the past week or in the future also should stay at home.
Those who are under home quarantine shouldn't go to school, work or any setting where they would be within 6 feet of other people.
KDHE said individuals under quarantine should contact a health care provider if they develop symptoms of COVID-19. That includes a fever of 100.4 or higher, coughing or shortness of breath.