21 students from Chinese province at center of virus outbreak in Fairfax County for school, cultural exchange

Twenty-one students and five chaperones from the province at the epicenter of the deadly coronavirus outbreak in China arrived in the D.C. region two days ago to take part in a school exchange program with Longfellow Middle School in Falls Church, Virginia.

Fairfax County Public Schools has confirmed with FOX 5 that the students will no longer take part in classes at the school, which were supposed to begin Wednesday, and they will not stay with host families in the area "out of an abundance of caution." Instead, the students will stay at hotels until Feb. 3, and visit tourist and cultural sites. 

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FOX 5 obtained an email written by a representative from the exchange program explaining that while they are from the same province, the students come from a city nearly 200 miles away from Wuhan, China, where the coronavirus outbreak has prompted a lockdown.  

The representative says there have been no cases in their area but they have been monitoring the children and staff members temperatures, and no one has presented any symptoms.


The students arrived at the JFK Airport in New York where there was an enhanced screening for the virus.

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Meanwhile, a number of Longfellow parents expressed concerns that the incubation period is anywhere from three to 14 days.  

Longfellow Middle School Principal Carole Kihm sent out the following letter to families: 

"Good afternoon Longfellow Middle School Families,

In an abundance of caution, we have decided to redesign the cultural exchange program that Longfellow MS was scheduled to begin today, January 22. Although the students will not be visiting Longfellow MS, we will offer to work collaboratively with the travel company to facilitate cultural and educational activities in the DC area so that the students enjoy a positive experience. 
Student and staff health and safety remain our first priority. While health officials believe the risk of illness transmission of the novel Coronavirus from these students is extremely low, we felt it necessary to make this adjustment.
Thank you for your understanding and support."

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China is currently taking dramatic steps to try to contain the deadly virus, which has now killed at least 17 people and sickened more than 400.

Government officials say the city of Wuhan is shutting down all outbound and inbound flights and trains. Subway and bus service is also temporarily shut down.

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