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St. Louis U., Maryville cancel in-person classes to help reduce spread of coronavirus

St. Louis U., Maryville cancel in-person classes to help reduce spread of coronavirus

Updated Wednesday at 11:45 a.m. to include update on St. Charles County cases.

Coronavirus challenged decision-makers across the state Tuesday. Schools closed and reopened. Some patients were cleared and new ones were tested. State legislators rolled up the welcome mat at the state Capitol. By evening, Missouri still had just one confirmed case of the virus.

Going forward, all emergency responders in St. Louis County must wear full protective equipment on medical calls for respiratory ailments, the county health department said Tuesday.

The directive comes in response to federal recommendations for coronavirus prevention amid reports that 10 firefighters in Seattle were potentially exposed to the virus when responding to an outbreak at a nursing home.

Meanwhile, at least two schools in the St. Louis area announced they would halt face-to-face classes in an effort to stop the spread of coronavirus. Maryville University said it was moving its classes online for two weeks, and St. Louis University said it was suspending all in-person courses next week while faculty decide what to do next. Both universities are on spring break this week.

Also on Tuesday, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed that the college student quarantined at home in Ladue was infected with coronavirus. But there was more promising news: Missouri health director Randall Williams said 11 other tests statewide had come back negative.

In St. Charles County, two residents were awaiting test results on Wednesday from the county health department and had been placed under quarantine in recent days, said Mary Enger, county director of communications. One of them had been to Germany and the other to the state of Washington. Two others who had been to Mexico tested negative on Tuesday. All four people exhibited symptoms of the virus after returning from recent trips to countries or U.S. states that have reported confirmed cases of the virus.

In St. Louis County, co-health director Spring Schmidt told the County Council that county health officials were monitoring 16 people, most of them because they returned from places exposed to coronavirus. She said they had tested eight. Of those, she said, they were awaiting results from four. She said that in addition to travelers, officials were now on the lookout for patients with respiratory illness.

Maryville University will switch to a virtual learning format for two weeks starting Monday, in response to the coronavirus epidemic, school officials said Tuesday. Residence halls, cafeterias, the library, sports programs and student support services will remain open. Students and professors are expected to return to classrooms March 30, barring other developments.

St. Louis University said it was suspending all in-person classes the week of March 15, and that faculty would work to develop a plan for how to complete the term remotely if a decision was made to do so. Students were not expected to return to campus, but those who planned to do so were asked to complete a form to allow the university to communicate directly with them.

The university said the week was “not an extension of spring break” and that faculty members hoped students would make progress by reading and studying in preparation for courses to resume.

Classes were called off Tuesday at New City School in the DeBaliviere Place neighborhood after the parent of a student was tested for coronavirus, but not yet diagnosed. City health officials ordered the family members to quarantine themselves. The school later said it would reopen Wednesday after the parent tested negative.

Villa Duchesne and Oak Hill School in Frontenac are closed all week after school leaders said the sister of the state’s first confirmed coronavirus patient had attended class on Thursday and Friday.

St. Louis County Executive Sam Page said the patient’s immediate family members had been told repeatedly since Thursday to quarantine themselves at their home in Ladue. Page said the father did not follow health department instructions and took his younger daughter to a father-daughter dance on Saturday for Villa Duchesne at the Ritz-Carlton in Clayton, among other places.

Family members said they were only told to isolate themselves after test results came back Saturday, according to the family’s attorney.

St. Louis County Prosecutor Wesley Bell said Tuesday that he expected no charges would be filed.

“We understand how serious this matter is and urge everyone to comply with all regulations and directives from St. Louis County and the St. Louis County Health Department; take all precautions and act responsibly,” Bell said in a statement. “We do not anticipate that any further action will be needed and it is our understanding that no crime was committed as of this point, but along with the health department and law enforcement we are closely monitoring the situation.”

Among other local developments Tuesday:

Leaders of the Missouri House and Senate are urging school groups and other lobbying organizations to stay away from the Capitol during the coronavirus outbreak.

• Many public events are still on schedule, including St. Patrick’s Day parades downtown on Saturday and in Dogtown on Tuesday, and early rounds of the NCAA men’s regional basketball tournament March 19 and 21 at the Enterprise Center.

• The 35 Washington University students who returned early from studying in Italy are expected to be on campus Monday, following the university’s spring break. The students will be screened for the virus before returning to campus.

• About 55 men incarcerated at Menard Correctional Center in southern Illinois are under quarantine with flu-like symptoms, according to a state department of corrections spokeswoman. Visits to the facility are temporarily suspended.

• Influenza activity remains widespread across Missouri, with 83,505 cases and 51 deaths reported since October. There have been seven school closures linked to flu across the state this year.

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