Massachusetts Schools Cancel Chinese Exchange Programs Over Coronavirus


BOSTON (WBZ NewsRadio) — At least three Massachusetts school districts have cancelled their annual foreign exchange programs that would have brought Chinese students into east coast classrooms.

Easton, Westborough, and Norton school districts have called off any exchanges where students from China would have stayed with local host families.

UMass Amherst also put out a statement on Tuesday saying its International Programs Office has suspended its Spring 2020 program that would have sent seven UMass students to Shanghai and Beijing, China.

This comes amid the rapid spreading of the Coronavirus, which had infected more than 6,070 and killed 132 people in China by Wednesday evening.

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Massachusetts school officials cited the five confirmed cases of Coronavirus in the U.S., and the annual outbreak of the flu in New England, as reasons for cancelling the program.

Norton has canceled its two-week exchange program despite its Chinese partner school having no reports of the virus in its region. Superintendent Joseph Baeta said he is aware how disappointing the news must be for those involved.

"I know that our students, host families, and staff along with students from China were looking forward to this yearly event," said Baeta. "Although visiting students are hundreds of miles away with no confirmed cases, we just thought that the safety of all was most important."

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Massachusetts schools are not the first in the nation to cancel exchange programs with Chinese students amid the growing global outbreak. Schools in Virginia and Philadelphia have made similar moves over the past few weeks.

New Hampshire's Department of Health and Human services put out a press release on Monday showing two residents are being tested for Coronavirus. The Office of Connecticut's Governor New Lamont posted a message online saying two people were being tested for the virus in that state, including one student from Wesleyan University.

Approximately 100 people are being monitored for the virus across the nation, but Massachusetts state officials won't say whether any of them are in the Bay State. Officials say the state will only report confirmed cases, not suspected cases. Rhode Island has a similar rule in place.

So far 16 countries have confirmed cases of Coronavirus.

WBZ NewsRadio's Madison Rogers (@_madisonrogers) reports:

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