This story has been updated to reflect that the first case of COVID-19 has been identified in Onondaga County. The Catholic Sun will continue to update this developing story.
By Renée K. Gadoua | Contributing writer, and Katherine Long | Editor
The first case of COVID-19 has been identified in Onondaga County, County Executive Ryan McMahon announced at a press conference Monday morning.
All schools in the county, including the diocese’s Catholic schools, will close at the end of the school day. They are set to reopen April 14.
Coronavirus causes COVID-19, a respiratory illness that has spread around the globe. Attempts to contain the disease have spurred lockdowns in countries including Italy, Spain, and France. The disease has killed more than 5,000 people since January. More than 2,000 confirmed cases and 50 deaths have been reported in the United States as of Saturday night.
Onondaga County schools previously were set to close Friday, March 20, per a state of emergency announcement on Saturday. In light of the confirmed case, schools will close today. Fayetteville-Manlius School District announced Saturday night it would close immediately; Immaculate Conception School in Fayetteville and Holy Cross School in DeWitt would close, too.
Schools in Oneida, Broome, and Oswego counties are closed effective March 16, set to reopen April 14. Schools in Cortland County will close at the end of the school day March 17 and reopen April 14. All extracurricular activities are canceled until then.
Although Catholic schools are not included under the public school closures announced as part of the states of emergency, Catholic schools follow the responses of their public school counterparts during emergency closures — like snow days — because the public school districts provide transportation for Catholic school students per state law, Superintendent Crist explained.
Diocesan officials “will continue to watch events as they unfold,” diocesan Chancellor and Director of Communications Danielle Cummings said Friday.
Closures across nation
Three of the nation’s largest dioceses — New York, Boston, and Chicago — have canceled Masses. In the Archdiocese of New York this weekend’s Masses are canceled, although churches remain open for private prayer. The Archdiocese covers 10 downstate counties with more than 2.6 million Catholics registered in 296 parishes. Archdiocesan elementary schools will be closed March 16 to 20, with a longer closure possible, Superintendent Michael J. Deegan announced Saturday. Several other dioceses have also announced plans to close churches and schools and cancel events.
Given the diocese’s geography — encompassing Broome, Chenango, Cortland, Madison, Oneida, Onondaga, and Oswego counties, each with unique characteristics and individual government entities — there is no one-size-fits-all response to a quickly evolving crisis.
In Onondaga County, “All superintendents and districts are working closely with the county, including the executive and health commissioner,” Crist said on Saturday. He attended a meeting Saturday with McMahon and county school superintendents.
“Our schools will continue to work closely with districts for transportation this week and for students who will receive meals,” he said. “Our schools are preparing to bring online and distance learning to our students during this time and to work closely with parents to provide instruction in a comprehensive manner.”
The diocese operates 22 schools with a total enrollment of 4,345 students pre-K to grade 12 and 429 employees.