Amid coronavirus scare, Catholic schools issue new rule for traveling students & staff

Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio heads the Diocese of Brooklyn and Queens, as well as its Catholic schools. (Photo via Wikimedia Commons)

City Catholic school students and teachers coming back from abroad will need to get a doctor’s note proving they are coronavirus-free before they can step foot in a classroom.

“We have all seen the rising concern surrounding the novel coronavirus in the news for many weeks,” Superintendent of Catholic School Support Services Thomas Chadzutko from the Diocese of Brooklyn wrote in a letter sent to parents early Monday, Monday 2. “For many weeks, the Associate Superintendent for Government Programs, Mrs. Joan McMaster of the Office of Superintendent Catholic School Support Services has been in communication with federal, state, and city officials monitoring the situation…and evaluating policies and procedures to keep our students and adults safe.”

At the bottom of the letter, it states that all students and Catholic Academy and Parish school personnel returning from international travel will be required to get written medical clearance from their doctors. Student notes have to be signed and stamped by a physician and given to school principals by a parent. A similar letter from the Archdiocese of New York was sent to families as well early Monday morning. The Diocese of Brooklyn, a branch of the Archdiocese of New York, oversees Catholic schools in Brooklyn and Queens while the Archdiocese of New York controls schools in Manhattan, Staten Island, the Bronx as well as Dutchess, Orange, Putnam, Rockland, Sullivan, Ulster and Westchester Counties. ,

“They are just being proactive,” said T.J. McCormack, spokesperson for the Archdiocese of New York’s Superintendents of Schools. 

So far, the city’s Department of Education has no plans of closing schools at this time, nor are there plans to require public school students or staff coming back from overseas travels to supply school principals with similar documentation.

Instead, the agency is merely advising New Yorkers to take practice general flu prevention tactics like washing hands regularly, get flu shots or stay at home when feeling sick.

The announcement comes a day after Governor Andrew Cuomo confirmed the first case of novel coronavirus, or COVID-19, in New York. Last week, a 39-year-old Manhattan woman started showing symptoms of the virus after she returned from a trip to Iran. She checked herself into a hospital where she later tested positive for the virus and has since been staying home to not infect others, officials said. 

Earlier today, both Governor Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio told New Yorkers not to panic over the news and that the woman, a healthcare worker, is a unique case. 

“This is a disease we’re learning about, the international medical community is learning about,” said Mayor de Blasio to a gaggle of reporters. “But so far, it does not seem to be a disease that focuses on our kids – in fact, the opposite.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control, there is no evidence to support that children are more likely to contract the virus.

Most cases of coronavirus have appeared in adults. Some young children have contracted the virus but they usually exhibit mild symptoms and deadly complications are uncommon. Symptoms of the virus include fever, coughing, runny nose, difficulty breathing.

Although coronavirus is more deadly than the flu, most people who contract the virus get better. Out of the 80,064 cases of coronavirus so far, according to the Washington Post, that with 2, 912 deaths. 

“In this situation, the facts defeat fear, because the reality is reassuring. It is deep breath time,” said Cuomo early Monday. “When you look at the reality here, about 80 percent of the people who are infected with the coronavirus self-resolve.”

The governor said that in order to combat the virus from spreading, he would fast-track a piece of emergency legislation that would add 40 million health care workers and equipment to better test for coronavirus. Cuomo called for testing 1,000 people a day for the virus. The state would also implement new cleaning protocols in schools and public transportation including washing subway cars with bleach, Cuomo added.