School Closure Underway In Murrieta Due To Coronavirus Concerns

RIVERSIDE (CNS) - A Murrieta school was closed today amid concerns that a Murrieta Valley Unified School District employee was exposed to coronavirus, while a Riverside County public health emergency declaration was set to go before the Board of Supervisors after an infection was confirmed in the Coachella Valley, where a major tennis event was canceled as a precaution.

MVUSD Superintendent Patrick Kelley announced Friday that Murrieta Valley High School would be shuttered until testing was complete on an unnamed employee who traveled to a location where coronavirus was present and returned to work ill.

“The health and safety of our students is our first concern,” Kelley said. “This decision was made is to ensure their health.”

The action was supported by county Public Health Officer Dr. Cameron Kaiser, who on Sunday implemented a local health emergency following word that an individual was quarantined at Eisenhower Medical Center in Rancho Mirage for treatment of the virus. The infected party, who was not identified, is believed to be the first local case of COVID-19.

It led to the BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells -- an internationally watched multi-round professional tennis tournament -- being called off. It had been slated to run until next weekend.

“The patient is in isolation, and Eisenhower staff have taken appropriate precautions in the treatment of this patient. No further information about the patient will be provided at this time,” an Eisenhower spokesperson said Sunday.

The tennis tournament may be rescheduled.

Officials would not specify where the Murrieta Valley High School employee had been, and COVID-19 test result was not expected until mid-week from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention. Still, as a precaution, the county Department of Public Health issued exclusion letters to 71 students, ordering them to self-quarantine because they may have interacted with the employee, who is undergoing treatment at an undisclosed facility.

“While I want to reassure the students, families and staff at MVHS that the risk of transmission is low, I support the school district's decision to temporarily close the school until testing is complete,” Kaiser said.

Parents or guardians of students exhibiting any signs of illness were asked to alert the school district.

Coronavirus bears similarities to the flu, including high fever, coughing and respiratory difficulties.

County supervisors were expected to consider Kaiser's public health declaration as part of their policy agenda Tuesday. The declaration will provide a means for the county to marshal resources that can be dedicated to containing the coronavirus, should it be necessary, relying on state and federal aid.

According to the World Health Organization, more than 100,000 coronavirus cases have been documented globally, the vast majority in China, where it originated. Close to 4,000 have died -- most in China, officials said. Just over 500 infections have been recorded in the U.S., two dozen of which have been fatal. By contrast, according to the CDC, there have been about 20,000 deaths stemming from flu-related complications nationwide since the start of influenza season in September.

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