02:57 GMT04 April 2020
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    US Vice President Mike Pence visited the Sarasota Military Academy (SMA) Friday, where he could have been exposed to the COVID-19 coronavirus. An SMA student and his mother are in quarantine due to the latter’s contact with a coronavirus-infected patient at the Doctors Hospital of Sarasota, causing fear that other students had also been exposed.

    On Friday, SMA senior cadets shook hands and took photos with Pence while he was in Sarasota, Florida, for a fundraiser. However, the school has reassured the Pentagon that the student who may be infected with the virus was not present during that event, the Sarasota Herald-Tribune reported Monday. Likewise, Pence’s office has also confirmed that the Florida student who was quarantined over the virus was not present when Pence was visiting the student’s school.

    Katie Miller, a spokesperson for Pence, confirmed in a Tuesday tweet that the vice president "did not meet or come into contact at all with this student."

    ​"Can we all take a deep breath?" she tweeted.

    “I travel across this country all the time. My kids live all over the country,” Pence said Monday when asked to cancel future travel plans. “And look, this is a time to use common sense. Good time to wash your hands. But this time of year that’s always a good decision. But as we’ve said, the risk remains low,” he added, Bloomberg reported.

    In a Monday Facebook post by SMA, the school confirmed that the student and his mother are not showing symptoms of the virus.

    “One of our students and his mother are currently quarantined as a precautionary measure due to the mother's contact with a patient at Sarasota Doctors Hospital in her professional role. Our student and his mother currently are not showing any symptoms and are in good health and spirits. We will keep you and your families updated with their status. Please remember to consistently and thoroughly wash your hands,” the post reads.

    The statement goes on to add that the school will continue to disinfect classrooms and common areas.

    According to Col. Christina Bowman, executive director of schools at SMA, the school has been sanitizing classrooms, including door knobs, door handles and light fixtures, all throughout the flu season, and will continue to do so, especially amid coronavirus outbreak fears.

    "I want our parents and employees to know we are safe. We've been proactive on sanitizing and teaching our students how to make sure they are watching their hands. We are working with the health department and making sure we are following their protocols. At this time, they are not recommending any exclusions. They are recommending we go about our business every day,” Bowman is quoted as telling the Herald-Tribune.

    Sarasota County Schools spokesperson Kelsey Whealy and Sarasota School Board member Bridget Ziegler both said that they will update school families on the situation as soon as possible, according to the Herald-Tribune. 

    On Sunday night, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis declared a public health emergency in the state. At least two Florida residents have tested positive for the coronavirus in the Tampa Bay area. 

    Kim Savage, spokesperson for Sarasota Memorial Health Care Systems, said that the hospital is boosting its efforts to prepare for a potential outbreak in Florida.

    "Even though there has been no confirmation, we are going to assume it is here," she said. "We are going to take extra steps for our staff and community in ways they can be safe."

    "Basically we are asking people to be vigilant but not panicked. We want people who are sick to stay home and call their doctor and get advice on when and where and if they need medical care. We don't want them to come to the hospital and expose people unnecessarily,” she added.

    Currently, there are 107 coronavirus cases in the US. There have also been six deaths in the country as a result of the virus, according to the latest data by the Johns Hopkins Center for Systems Science and Engineering. All six deaths have been in Washington state.

    In a statement Tuesday, the US Federal Reserve announced that it had cut US interest rates by half a point to mitigate potential economic threats due to the coronavirus.

    "The fundamentals of the US economy remain strong. However, the coronavirus poses evolving risks to economic activity. In light of these risks and in support of achieving its maximum employment and price stability goals, the Federal Open Market Committee decided today to lower the target range for the federal funds rate by 1/2 percentage point, to 1 to 1–1/4%,” the statement reads.

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    Florida, exposure, quarantine, Mike Pence, coronavirus
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