The Student News Site of Washington International School

International Dateline

The Student News Site of Washington International School

International Dateline

The Student News Site of Washington International School

International Dateline

A Five-Minute Guide to the Coronavirus

The reports of ten coronavirus cases in the DC-Maryland-Virginia area make it clear: COVID-19, known colloquially as the coronavirus, has hit the DMV.

The WIS community has already been affected by the spread of the virus. The IMF, where many WIS parents work, recently canceled all non-essential missions. The summer trip to China for 8th, 9th, and 10th grade Chinese students was canceled. Additionally, both of the 8th grade language trips, this year to Lima and Paris, were postponed, along with the 10th grade trip to New Orleans and the 12th grade Civil Rights trip.

In an email to the community last Monday, Ms. Suzanna Jemsby, head of WIS, outlined the administration’s plan to prepare for the virus. She explained that they would be “modifying the school’s cleaning regimen.” She also stated that the school has begun to prepare for the possibility of extended school closure, which would involve utilizing a virtual learning program, as is done during snow days. 

In her communication, Ms. Jemsby also included behavioral recommendations for students and parents. She asked parents to be mindful about traveling during spring break, and to account for the possible risks, including being quarantined, as well as monitor the risk assessments for destinations issued by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). 

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Ms. Jemsby echoed the hygiene recommendations provided by the CDC: avoiding close contact with people who are sick, avoiding touching your face (in particular eyes, nose, and mouth), cough and sneeze into tissues, and disinfect commonly used household objects. In addition, she recommended frequently washing hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.

Though masks are helpful for those who are infected, as they keep respiratory droplets from spreading, they are not effective at preventing those who are not infected from being infected with the virus. The Washington Post recommends being aware of your surroundings, especially in closely packed locations such as public transportation, and keeping away from the most crowded areas. The Post also recommends receiving the flu shot; becoming immunized for influenza helps “free up services for people who come [to clinics] with coronavirus.” 

Ms. Jemsby emphasized the importance of keeping sick WIS students at home, and taking them to see a doctor, especially if they are exhibiting coronavirus symptoms. The most common symptoms of the virus are frequent coughing, difficulty breathing, fever, and body aches. As these symptoms overlap with those of more common viral illnesses, such as the common cold, the CDC recommends that parents should be on guard for even mild symptoms. 

The CDC reports that the virus spreads through person to person transmission. Although the exact transmission methods are not yet certain, it is thought to spread through close contact (between people standing closer than 6 feet), and through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. 

Infected people are most contagious when their symptoms are strongest; though there have been reports of people infecting others when their symptoms have not yet appeared, this is not a primary method of transmission. The same appears to be the case for infection through touching infected surfaces and infection from infected domestic animals. 

Multiple virus-related death rates have been reported, ranging from 0.4 percent to 3.4 percent. The Los Angeles Times explains that the insecurity about this number is due to the unknown number of people who were (or are) unknowingly infected and never saw a doctor or received treatment. That would make the fatality rate lower than is apparent. 

This was the case with the H1N1 flu pandemic in 2009; the fatality rate was initially reported to be as high as 10 percent, while the true number was lower than 0.12 percent. Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, says that while the coronavirus’ death rate may be less than 1 percent, that would still make it deadlier than the common flu. 

The virus appears to disproportionately affect older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions, such as heart, lung, or kidney diseases; early data suggests that these people are twice as likely to develop serious cases of COVID-19. By contrast, the  CDC reports that children are less susceptible to the virus; though cases have been reported, children generally have milder, mostly cold-like symptoms, such as “fever, runny nose, and cough.” 

A vaccine for COVID-19 is not yet available, though a work in progress. In the meantime, the Washington Post explains that the best way to prepare for the virus is to remain calm; though the coronavirus may be new, it is a respiratory virus like the flu, and there are both effective ways to prevent and manage those types of illnesses. Some of these are outlined above in the article.

The Post emphasizes that panicking and blaming others for the spread of the virus is harmful. Anti-Asian prejudice has spread due to the coronavirus. In addition to being discriminatory, this stigmatization can lead individuals to avoid seeking treatment, which could further spread the infection. 

Another recommendation is to have a household plan (taking into account keeping pets at home) to prepare for the virus. Make sure to have a few weeks worth of non-perishables and medication, in case it is necessary to self-quarantine to avoid the worst of the spread of the infections (which is particularly important for those who are at higher risk of having serious cases). Other steps to take include avoiding questionable information sources, such as individuals on Twitter, and instead using reliable sources to gain information about the coronavirus, such as the CDC, the World Health Organization, or local health officials.

With the spread of COVID-19 in the DMV, it is important for WIS families to follow the recommendations issued by Ms. Jemsby and the WIS administration, the CDC, and the DC Health Department, in order to help prevent the further spread of the virus and minimize the damage done by the outbreak. 

By Anna Martinelli-Parker

Additional information about COVID-19 can be found at the following:

The DC Health Department’s web page on COVID-19:

The CDC’s COVID-19 homepage:

Information about household planning, including what to do if a family member is sick:

Information about preventing the spread in various communities:

Information about who is at risk:

Frequently asked questions about COVID-19:

Travel information and geographic risk assessments:

Tracking the spread of the virus:

General recommendations to follow:

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