For at least another month, students in Scott County will be on an extended break.
Acting on a request from Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee, both the Oneida Special School District and Scott County School System announced Tuesday afternoon that all local schools will be closed through April 24, as coronavirus continues to spread across the state.
Lee made the request despite President Donald Trump’s statement earlier in the day that he would like to have the country back on its feet by Easter, which is April 12.
Both local school systems have been closed since March 16. The county school system initially announced it would close for a week and then re-evaluate, while Oneida announced it would close for two weeks. But Lee last week issued a request — not a mandate — for all schools in the state to close through March 31, and both local systems agreed.
Students will not have to worry about the school year extending into summer. The Tennessee General Assembly has already approved legislation to relax the requirement that each school system complete 180 days of instruction during the school year. The legislature also canceled this year’s TNReady achievement assessment.
With the closures extending, other things are in jeopardy: Class trips have already been canceled, and the spring sports season, junior-senior proms, middle school dances and commencement ceremonies are hanging in the balance.
Tennessee does not have a shelter-in-place policy in place, nor have non-essential businesses been mandated to close, as is the case in some neighboring states. However, all of the state’s metropolitan areas are moving towards those policies, or have already adopted them. Lee has also ordered all restaurants to close, except for delivery, takeout or drive-thru service, through April 6. Bars and gyms have also been ordered to close, and there are to be no social gatherings of more than 10 people — which would prohibit churches from conducting worship services.
Also on Tuesday, the governor announced that he was calling up 250 volunteer members of the Army National Guard. As the Independent Herald reported earlier Tuesday, their task will be to assist with testing efforts at health departments around the state.
It’s all part of the ongoing effort to stem the spread of novel coronavirus, which has sickened nearly 700 people in Tennessee so far, killing two. There has been only one case in Scott County.
Nationwide, the virus has sickened more than 53,000 and killed 696 — including 131 in New York City alone. Nationwide, the death toll climbed above 18,600, with more than 400,000 infected.
While the virus hasn’t hit particularly hard on the Cumberland Plateau, many other areas of the country haven’t been so fortunate. Nationwide, 10,600 new cases were reported on Tuesday, by far the most in a single day thus far.
The goal for the U.S. is to avoid a scenario where a tidal wave of sickness from the virus overwhelms the health care system and leads to increased deaths. That has been the case in parts of Europe, particularly Italy and Spain, where the death rate is above 8.0 percent. In the U.S., the death rate is just 1.3 percent so far. Most people who contract the virus experience only mild symptoms.