Philadelphia health officials say they are ready for coronavirus

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Schools across the United States are canceling trips abroad, preparing online lessons and even rethinking "perfect attendance" awards as they brace for the possibility that the new coronavirus could begin spreading in their communities.

Districts have been rushing to update emergency plans this week after federal officials warned that the virus, which started in China, is almost certain to begin spreading in the U.S. Many are preparing for possible school closures that could stretch weeks or longer, even as they work to tamp down panic among students, parents and teachers.

President Donald Trump has sought to minimize fears but told schools this week to plan for arrival of the COVID-19 virus "just in case." Asked if there is any plan to close U.S. schools if the virus were to spread in the U.S., Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said "every option needs to be on the table."

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The City of Philadelphia is ramping up preparations in the event coronavirus cases come to the region.

"The coronavirus so far is not in Philadelphia," said Philadelphia Health Commissioner Dr. Tom Farley. "It's likely coming here because it spread around the world."

Farley said Friday city commissioners met during a routine meeting but discussed preparedness for the virus that originated in Asia.

They are also in communication with schools, businesses and regional hospitals.

Dr. Tony Reed of a Temple University Hospital said if a patient reports flu-like symptoms they are ask if they recently traveled.

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Signs are posted asking people with flu-like symptoms to wear masks.

Action News asked Reed what happens if enough cases come here and a quarantine is in order, when do we change to a quarantine level?

"That's a fluid situation, we are one of the best centers for respiratory care in the region," Reed said.

No confirmed cases of the coronavirus have been found in the Delaware Valley to date.

-- The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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