School-sponsored trips abroad cancelled. Schools told to close. As parents it's hard to know when it's time to start worrying if operations at your child's school will be impacted by the deadly novel coronavirus.
According to The Associated Press, "School letters sent home from Florida to California ... sought to assure parents that, in most communities, the risk of exposure to the virus is still very low."
Six schools in western Washington state and Saint Raphael in Pawtucket, Rhode Island were closed Monday. At least five Americans have died so far in the U.S. from the virus.
In New York, the State Department of Health will institute a new cleaning protocol in schools, something the governor said is a good idea during flu season anyway,
How can concerned parents prepare in advance?
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"I'm thinking of this virus and the preparation for its potential spread in the same way that we prepare for natural disasters --prepare for the worst, hope for the best," Dr. Edith Bracho-Sanchez told "Good Morning America."
She recommends working parents ask themselves three initial questions:
1. What would happen if schools closed?
2. Would I be able to work from home and watch the kids?
3. Who is my network of people -- is it neighbors, friends, family members who may be able to help if I can't stay home?
In addition to looking after the children, Bracho-Sanchez said there are a few things parents can do to plan ahead.
"If you or your child take prescription medications, I recommend getting refills to ensure you have 90 days worth of medication if you can," she said.
She also recommends having the basics plus a few extras on hand in case of illness.
"Get ibuprofen or Tylenol for fevers as well foods you may take when sick, such as broth, Pedialyte for kids, Popsicles, gingerale, Gatorade, crackers, etc. All of these things are good to have during cold and flu season anyway," she said. "I also think we need to be conscious of how we are talking to kids about the virus itself and about the preparation for it. I always recommend starting conversations with what kids know and what they have heard and providing age appropriate information accordingly."
Get more tips on how to protect yourself, including what to do if you think you have coronavirus symptoms and answers to common questions about how to stay safe as the disease spreads here.