BY MATT MACKINDER
Clarkston News Staff Writer
While no cases of coronavirus (COVID-19) have yet been confirmed in Michigan, Clarkston has been impacted by the worldwide outbreak.
Students and staff from Japan scheduled to visit later this month as part of the ongoing Japanese exchange program with Clarkston High School will not be coming due to safety precautions.
“I understand the circumstances and how bad the situation is, but that doesn’t change the fact they aren’t coming, and I can’t see my buddies,” said CHS senior Charlie Arnold. “I’ve been texting them for months, and I’ll stay in touch with them. I hope they all stay healthy and safe.”
Faye Valtadoros, Japanese teacher, said she was informed of the decision in an email on Feb. 26.
“While this decision is understandably the safest one for all, I am saddened,” Valtadoros said. “I am sad for the students in Japan who had worked hard to prepare presentations for us and sad for my students who were excitedly getting ready to host them in their houses. I am sad we can’t celebrate our 20-year anniversary with our sister school. However, thanks to technology, we can still have a virtual video celebration together across the miles.
“Japan is in our thoughts during this concerning time, and we look forward to seeing our Chiba Higashi friends again soon.”
Sophomore Sadie Wheeler said she was heartbroken by the news.
“I was very excited for this experience, as I had seen and met the students and had friends host in the two years I have been in Japanese previously,” Wheeler added. “The excitement when my mom told me we could host this year was overwhelming. I have been talking to my student almost non-stop, and we have even video called for almost two hours, and we plan to again soon. I didn’t know what to do or how to react. I have been talking to my student and we are both very sad, but we promised we will meet, whether it be sooner or later. All we can do right now is hope it can be resolved soon and only have it be postponed.”
Samantha Brandon, another tenth grader, knows the situation, but said it doesn’t make it any easier.
“I’m really sad the exchange program has been canceled,” Brandon said. “I understand why they did it, but it doesn’t make it any less upsetting. I plan to keep in touch with my exchange student, Miu.”
Garrett Bailey noted as a senior, this was his last shot to partake in the program.
“My whole family is really down about the cancelation of the Japanese exchange students this year,” Bailey said. “We were really looking forward to it since it is my senior year and would have been my last one. I just hope that my student, Kanata, is okay.”
Oakland County Executive David Coulter asked former Congressman Sander Levin to help with the county’s internal and external coronavirus readiness efforts.
“Sandy Levin is uniquely qualified with his expertise on health care issues from his work on the Ways and Means Committee, international relations, and his deep roots in Oakland County,” Coulter said. “I want to reassure our residents and our businesses we are taking all precautionary steps at the local level as we learn more about the virus, the outbreak and the risks of transmission.”
“In these health matters it is wise to exercise an abundance of caution and have in place the organization to be fully prepared if and as necessary,” added Levin.
In addition, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer activated the State Emergency Operations Center, Feb. 28, to coordinate state, local and federal agencies to help with the prevention of the spreading of the virus. Health officials said COVID-19 has been identified as the cause of an outbreak of respiratory illness first detected in Wuhan, China.
“By activating the State Emergency Operations Center, we’re ensuring that every branch of state government is on alert, and actively coordinating to prevent the spread of coronavirus if it comes to Michigan,” said Whitmer.
More than 81,000 coronavirus cases, with 78,000 of those in China, have been reported around the globe, with approximately 2,600 deaths from COVID-19 being reported. In the United States, there have been 15 confirmed cases of the COVID-19.
The condition includes mild to severe respiratory illness, with fever, cough, and shortness of breath. Prevention tips include wash your hands often with soap and warm water for 20 seconds, if not available, use hand sanitizer, avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands, cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or upper sleeve when coughing or sneezing, and avoid contact with people who are sick.