Over the past few weeks, the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) has been rapidly spreading across the world, and there have now been cases in over 100 countries and in every continent except Antarctica. The disease is thought to spread through respiratory droplets, and its symptoms, which include coughing, fever, and shortness of breath, appear two to fourteen days after exposure. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that the mortality of the disease is at 3.4% while the United States estimates it to be closer to 2%, compared to 0.1% for the common flu; however, the mortality rate for people between ten and thirty-nine years old is much lower at 0.2%. Furthermore, over 58,000 people have recovered from the disease, and 80% of cases are mild.
As of March 7, over 105,000 people have contracted the disease, up from just 44 confirmed cases two months ago, and over 3,500 people have died. These numbers are expected to rise as countries identify more cases with increased testing and as the disease spreads within communities, with Harvard epidemiologist Marc Lipsitch projecting that up to 40 to 70% of the world adult population could be infected without serious action against the virus. Currently, there have been 439 cases of coronavirus in the United States that have resulted in nineteen deaths, but this number could be much higher as the country has not been able to confirm cases due to a lack of testing kits, with only 1900 tests being performed as of March 7.
Massachusetts has also seen an increase in cases recently, and, as of March 7, there have been thirteen confirmed infections. Two of these confirmed cases were in Wellesley, the home of 53 Belmont Hill students, and caused the early dismissal of two schools in the town. With the disease reaching communities close to the school, Belmont Hill has been preparing for a situation in which the CDC recommends that schools in the Boston area be canceled for an extended period of time, and Mr. Smith, the Dean of Students, has said that “The school is prepared to be flexible to meet the challenges of the coronavirus.” In addition to canceling the spring break trips to China and Northern California, the school has also made a schedule in case there is an extended closure. In the schedule, there would be six fifty-minute blocks every day, starting at 9:00 am and ending at 3:20 pm with a forty-minute lunch break at 11:30 am, and classes would be taught four times a week using tools such as Google Hangouts and Slack or by assigning projects. The school believes that keeping things moving forward is especially important for AP courses as the Collegeboard has not announced a delay for AP testing and for subjects that students need regular contact with in order to keep learning such as math and language.