Health authorities in Boston said Tuesday the coronavirus health risk to the general public remained low, even as school districts and universities in the region braced for the worst, following the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Tuesday statement that people should prepare for the virus spreading in the US.
Boston has so far seen the state’s only confirmed case of the coronavirus, according to the Boston Public Health Commission.
Nurses and staff for the commission are working seven days a week monitoring and investigating contacts, according to authorities, and the commission has activated an “internal incident command system and is in constant communication” with the CDC, state health authorities, and Massport.
“We are confident we will be ready to respond and assist as the situation develops,” said Caitlin McLaughlin, a commission spokeswoman, in a statement.
Boston EMS dispatchers will ask specific questions during 911 calls based on CDC criteria for coronavirus, including questions about recent travel.
Boston Public Schools in late January instructed families to visit the website for the city’s public health commission to get up-to-date information for coronavirus.
“We work closely with the BPHC on recommendations and best practices to prevent the spread of respiratory viruses,” said Jessica Ridlen, a school department spokeswoman. “Many of the precautions that help prevent colds and the flu can help protect against other respiratory viruses.”
Some colleges and universities, such as Beverly’s Endicott College, are offering to bring their study abroad students home. Endicott sent a message to its students abroad Tuesday giving them that option, including 36 students who are studying in Florence, Italy.
Italy reported a 45 percent increase in people infected with the coronavirus on Tuesday. The majority of the cases were concentrated in northern Italy.
Endicott spokesman Bryan Cain said that each student has a flight home booked for the end of the semester and that the school would cover any additional change fees if anyone wanted to fly home immediately. The decision about whether to come home will ultimately be up to the students and their families. He said the college has plans to ensure that “this is not a lost semester for any of our students.”
“We have an individual plan for each student to complete the semester effectively,” he said.
Boston’s Emerson College, meanwhile, canceled a planned academic excursion to Milan that had been scheduled for March 6 through 9 for its students who are studying in the Netherlands. The school has 81 students who currently live in Kasteel Well, a castle in Well, Netherlands. The Milan excursion will be “re-structured,” according to the school.
Worcester’s Assumption College has a Rome campus where 18 of its students are studying. While Rome has avoided the brunt of the coronavirus outbreak in Italy, the college did tell students not to travel to the northern parts of the country.
“We’re being proactive, but also trying not to disrupt their experience in Rome,” said Assumption’s president, Francesco Cesareo.
At Northeastern University, a spokeswoman said the school has been “working on contingency plans for learning, research, and business operations across our global network.”
Spring break will start March 1 for the school. In a Tuesday message to its students, Northeastern encouraged those planning to travel to certain foreign locales, including mainland China and Italy, to fill out an online “self-report form.” The pneumonia-like illness was first identified in late December in Wuhan, the capital city of central China’s Hubei province.
The message encouraged students travelling to China for a personal trip to check with airlines, and noted that the CDC is recommending that travelers avoid all nonessential travel to South Korea. Italy has placed travel restrictions on regions in northern Italy, according to the message.
The state Department of Public Health said Tuesday that it has been working closely with the CDC to respond to the coronavirus, which has been named Covid-19.
“Our priority is to protect the public health and we are working actively with state and federal partners to provide the most up-to-date information and guidance to our residents,” said Dr. Monica Bharel, the state’s public health commissioner, said in a statement. "We understand the concern this new virus is causing and want to reassure residents that at this time there is still a single confirmed case of Covid-19 in the Commonwealth and the risk in Massachusetts remains low.”
Material from the Associated Press was used in this report. Globe correspondents Caroline Enos and Stephanie Purifoy and Felice Freyer of the Globe staff contributed to this report.