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Superintendent responds to immune-compromised Shorecrest parent who wants school closed

(Photo by Kena Betancur/Getty Images)

For healthy people, the threat of coronavirus likely represents something resembling a bad flu or cold … but for Shorecrest High School parent Jack Llewyllson, it could mean death.

In a letter to Shorecrest High School, Llewyllson said that because of his multiple immune-compromising issues, he would likely not survive if he contracted coronavirus. He wrote that his daughter, who is a high achiever and afraid to miss class, “has been crying this week over the choice between her future and my safety.”

While doctors say 80 percent of coronavirus cases are mild, there can be very serious and even fatal symptoms for the elderly and those with underlying conditions, such as cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and auto-immune disorders. Of the 22 deaths that have occurred as of Monday in Washington, most were linked to a nursing home in Kirkland, demonstrating how deadly the virus can be for those with already weakened health.

“It seems that Shoreline School District, as contrasted with Northshore [the Bothell-area school district that has closed], is determined to crash into this without a plan,” Llewyllson told KIRO Radio’s Dori Monson Show. “And the way they could soften that landing is to make accommodations for students who have immune-compromised family at home.”

He pointed out that not only is there no vaccine for coronavirus, but unlike other viruses that have been around for many years, there is no built-in population of people who have had it and are immune.

“This is a virus with zero herd immunity — nobody has antibodies for COVID-19,” he said. “Really the only steps we can take to avoid getting that are avoidance techniques.”

Washington State Superintendent Chris Reykdal said the decision to close schools is currently up to each district, but called the coronavirus outbreak “unprecedented.” Normally, he said, the decision to close schools is one that is very temporary, such as in the case of snow days.

“This is a decision of local superintendents, but they are directed consistently to follow the guidance of local health departments, because this is an epidemiological issue,” he said. “Superintendents are not scientists and they are not medical experts, so they are really listening closely. And so far, King County Public Health, Snohomish County Public Health, and others have said, ‘Do not close schools.'”

The governor does have the authority to close Washington schools, but Reykdal said his office does not.

“We saw Italy wait a while, we saw China wait a while, we saw Japan go very quickly to a 30-day school closure, and I think we’re all trying to understand whether one decision or another creates a better outcome,” Reykdal said.

Listen to the Dori Monson Show weekday afternoons from 12-3 p.m. on KIRO Radio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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