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Corona Virus Fears Causing Area Cancellations
Written by Bradley Schlegel, Staff Writer

            Concerns related to the COVID-19 virus have forced the cancellation of at least two local events. Meanwhile, Montgomery County officials have cancelled a manufacturing symposium for students, scheduled for March 10 was cancelled.

            Meanwhile, the Upper Perkiomen and Quakertown Area school districts have not cancelled any scheduled events due to the outbreak, initially identified by the World Health Organization in late January. Administrators continue to closely monitor the situation.

            A decision by the Montgomery County Intermediate Unit to cancel all remaining Reading Olympics events for this season will affect students at Salford Hills Elementary Students, in the Souderton Area School District, and beyond. A message on the intermediate unit's website sites an "abundance of caution" for making the decision.

            Ten presumptive positive cases related to the Coronavirus have been identified in Pennsylvania. On Monday, the Department of Health today confirmed three cases, two of which reside in Montgomery County.

            Symptoms of the virus can include fever, cough and shortness of breath. The symptoms may appear in as few as two days or as long as 14 days after exposure, according to a news release from the agency. It states that the illnesses have ranged from people with little to no symptoms to people being severely ill and dying. Individuals most at risk for severe symptoms include elderly and those with pre-existing conditions.

            According to the information, more than 111,000 cases have been identified worldwide, including nearly 3,900 deaths. Domestically, 600 cases have led to 22 deaths.

            In Upper Salford, the township's fire company decided to indefinitely postpone the Spring Penny Auction, originally scheduled for Saturday, March 21, according to an email message from Amy B. Shafer, the township's secretary/treasurer.

            On Tuesday, heeding governmental recommendations concerning large public meetings, the executive board of the Goschenhoppen Historians announced the cancellation of its March 19 meeting. 

            On Saturday, March 7, the county's commerce department and MontcoWorks announced their decision to cancel Manu-Fest and More, which was scheduled for Tuesday in Oaks, due to recent development in the virus' outbreak. Organizers expressed concerns that the uncertainty of the situation could impact our students, parents, educators and exhibitors, according to a statement posted on the county website.

            On Wednesday, county officials cancelled all events and programs for March and April at Pennypacker Mills, located at 5 Haldeman Road in Perkiomen Township, according to an email from Linda S. Callegari, a museum educator.

            The MCIU's decision to cancel the Reading Olympics events for this season, was motivated by a desire to protect the more than 1,000 individuals and more than 100 volunteers would have attended Monday's event at Souderton Area High School, according to a message posted on the school's website.

            In the Upper Perkiomen School District, no decisions have been made to cancel or delay any events due to a low level of concern. However, all possibilities are being considered as the situation evolves, according to an email message from Nicole Gum, the district's communication specialist.

            While athletics are expected to continue as scheduled in the district, the PIAA has put out a list of Coronavirus guidelines that includes pre- and post-game handshakes may be replaced with fist, forearm or elbow pumps. District officials are taking the proposals under advisement, according to Gum.

            Administrators are monitoring this health issue closely and our school nurses, custodial department and administration are doing all they can to keep everyone safe, according to a message posted on the district's website It states that school officials will continue to work with local health departments, as well as take guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and other governmental agencies that provide direction as the situation evolves.

            Douglass Kenwood, the district's director of facilities and operations, has directed his team to increase cleaning and disinfecting classrooms and common areas daily as part of ongoing custodial services in our schools.  The message also asks the entire school community to assist district officials with preventative measures to keep our schools safe.

            The Open Link continues to operate its Center, located at 517 Jefferson Street in East Greenville, and its main office, located at 452 Penn Street in Pennsburg, on a normal schedule, according to Kelly Chandler, the facility's development and communications manager.

            "We haven't cancelled any events and participants are still attending activities and programs with very few exceptions," Chandler wrote in a March 10 email message received by the Town and Country.

            According to Chandler, protocol has been added to both buildings to allow for sanitizing. She writes that additional measures have been implemented at the senior center.

            Hand sanitizer bottles have been added to the Meals on Wheels food delivery bags. Additionally, program volunteers are being required to not only wash, but sanitize, their hands before and after deliveries.

            "We want to do everything we can to especially help protect the elderly, as they are more vulnerable," Chandler wrote.

            In the Quakertown School District, concerns over the virus have forced officials to cancel next month's planned Spanish trip to Costa Rica. All Bucks County school districts have canceled overseas travel, according to Superintendent Bill Haner's March 9 message posted on the district's website.

            Spanish teacher Bethany Fuller is working to reschedule the trip for later this summer. Graduating seniors will be allowed to remain on the summer Costa Rica trip, according to the message. It states that all local, inner-state, and cross country trips scheduled for this spring, including a planned choir trip to San Diego, will remain scheduled at this time. However, if conditions change at either end those trips may be canceled.

            While continuing with "deep cleaning" of the schools, district officials ordered multiple 55-gallon drums of hand sanitizer liquid that was excepted to arrive Tuesday. Administrators are monitoring student and adult attendance more than usual, according to the superintendent's message.

            In the Souderton Area School District, administrators announced Tuesday the cancellation of multiple extracurricular events, including a lip synch event at Oak Ridge Elementary, the Art Show Reception at the Indian Valley Public Library on March 12, the Art & Soul Fest at the high school on March 14, the third grade musical at the Vernfield Elementary on March 17, a Talent Show at the Indian Valley Middle School on March 19, as well as a lip sync event at Vernfield, bingo at Salford Hills Elementary and an Evening of Jazz at High School on March 20.

            On Tuesday, the 2020 Boyertown Health and Wellness Expo, which had been scheduled for May 14 at the Morningstar Fellowship Church, was cancelled. Organizers cited the recent outbreak of the virus as a reason for the decision.

            On Tuesday, Bucks County officials announced the discovery of the first two presumptive positive cases. Both involve adults residing in the same home. County officials did not divulge their names, gender, occupations and community of residence in a news release from spokesperson Larry R. King.

            Both, who are in isolation at home with mild symptoms, had attended an out-of-state gathering recently where they came into contact with two other people who later tested presumptively positive for coronavirus.

            The diagnoses bring Pennsylvania's total of presumptive positive cases to 14, according to the information. Eight are from Montgomery County and one each is from Delaware, Monroe,

            Philadelphia and Wayne counties. No one has died, although one adult from Montgomery

            County is reported to be hospitalized in critical condition.





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