UPDATE: 3 NJ school districts close over coronavirus. Some colleges too
New Jersey schools in multiple towns will close Tuesday because members of their communities have been diagnosed with the novel coronavirus, or had contact with individuals who have.
Berkeley Heights schools will be closed because the parent of a student has the virus, also known as COVID-19, the district said in a letter to parents Monday. Roselle Public Schools will close Tuesday and Wednesday because a staff member "has reported making contact with someone who is recently diagnosed with coronavirus," the district said in its own statement.
UPDATE: Trenton will additionally close Thursday to create materials for home instruction in the event schools are closed for an extended period, the district said late Monday. On Friday, it will be closed to students and staff to sanitize schools.
New Jersey 101.5 makes a resource to report school closings available to schools at NJ1015.com/closings.
Also Monday, New Jersey declared its first ever public health state of emergency. That order does not, however, force schools to close.
State health officials had said earlier Monday that a 48-year-old man from Berkeley Heights, with an onset of symptoms on March 1, has tested positive for novel coronavirus. That person has received in-patient treatment at Overlook Medical Center.
All positive results from tests done by New Jersey or private labs is considered "presumptive" until confirmed further by the Centers for Disease Control.
That person's exposure was reported to be from symptomatic friends from Milan — but those people have tested negative, State Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli said. "That is an unusual circumstance as it was reported to us," Persichilli said.
School officials said in a statement that the district would be closed Tuesday for a thorough cleaning, using one of the snow days built into the district's calendar. New Jersey schools must be open for 180 days of instruction to receive state aid, though the state will allow home-instruction days if schools must close their facilities to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
Extra-curricular activities were canceled Monday as well. Berkeley planned to reopen its schools on Wednesday.
The school said the coronavirus outbreak is an "unfolding situation" and that circumstances may change.
Roselle planned to be closed for two days "so that school and office buildings are sanitized effectively for the safety of all staff, students and families," the district said in a statement.
It said there were no coronavirus cases reported in the school district.
"However, a staff member has reported making contact with someone who is recently diagnosed with coronavirus. The school closure is a preventative measure until the individual is tested and results are provided," it said.
If those test results came back negative, it said, the district planned to operate on a half-day schedule Friday for students only. Staff members would stay for the rest of the day to make plans in the event extended closings were needed.
But if the results return positive, the district said, it would close for two weeks.
It also canceled all in-district extracurricular activities and field trips until further notice.
State health officials Monday announced five new "presumptive positive" coronavirus cases, bringing the state's total to 11. More than 20 other people were considered "persons under investigation" and being observed for potential signs of the disease.
Among the new cases were two in Monmouth County. Most previous New Jersey had been in northern New Jersey, aside from one in Camden County.
Persichilli said Monday districts would make their own decisions about when and whether to close, though she stressed state health officials have been in touch with schools.
On Monday, in Morris County, the Mount Olive school district announced that schools would be closed for students while teachers report to the high school to help develop plans as recommended by the state Department of Education. In Middlesex County, South Brunswick schools announced an early release Monday to allow for further disinfecting of buildings while also developing similar response plans.
Princeton University Monday announced it was canceling large gatherings and urged students to remain home after spring break and take classes online. Rowan extended its own spring break.
Monmouth University canceled classes for the rest of the week -- including online and hybrid classes -- because "a student contacted Health Services to report flu-like symptoms and was transported to Monmouth Medical Center for further evaluation," the school said.