SOUTH GLENS FALLS — Students are being warned not to come to the South High Marathon Dance if they are sick.
Fever and a cough are the main symptoms of the new coronavirus, known as COVID-19. As the virus has spread through the country, South Glens Falls school leaders considered whether to cancel this weekend’s big charity fundraiser.
Students (and adults) spend all year preparing for the event. Students learn to lead and organize, and also choose the recipients each year. They have helped local residents who are struggling to pay bills while getting cancer treatment, bought medical equipment, provided funds for a handicapped-accessible playground and much more. Last year, they raised $837,859.
So canceling it would be heartbreaking.
“Quite honestly, we’ve been tracking (the virus outbreaks) for the last week and a half,” said school Superintendent Kristine Orr.
“Because there’s no confirmed cases in the county and the surrounding counties, that’s why we’re going on with the Marathon Dance.”
But she sent out an email asking students and guests to stay home if they have any signs of illness, and wash their hands regularly if they attend.
“The South High Marathon Dance is taking precautions to ensure that our community is practicing good hygiene for the duration of the dance, especially in consideration of recipients who may be attending,” she wrote.
Adults will also keep a close lookout during the 28-hour event and will send home anyone who seems sick.
They do that every year, usually because of fears of the flu, Orr said.
“We are very vigilant looking for anyone showing fevers, flu-like symptoms,” she said. “Every year there have been students who go home because of sickness.”
The dance even has a “medical room” for people who feel sick, and medical providers are on staff for the entire event.
Recipients also attend the event and give heartfelt speeches at the end. Some of them have cancer diagnoses, which puts them at greater risk of serious illness if they catch COVID-19. But Orr said those patients are already careful.
“We always have them in a special room. They know what they can do and what they can’t,” she said.
In meetings with students, staff are telling them to bring their own water bottles and lip balm, wash their hands regularly with soap and water for 20 seconds and avoid touching their faces with unwashed hands.
“If you’re sick, be honest with us,” Orr added.
For those who might be sick, staying home doesn’t mean missing the show. It’s broadcast live online.
“You see just as much,” Orr said. “And you’re in the comfort of your own home. Stay home to prevent the spread of illness.”
Orr still has another hard decision ahead of her. An English teacher in the district is planning to lead a trip to London during April break. Orr is monitoring the COVID-19 outbreak and will cancel the trip if the virus is spreading there.
“My first priority is the health and welfare of the students and staff,” she said. “It’s my job to make the tough decisions.”
She added that all parents are urged to buy trip insurance for school trips, though that doesn’t mean they all actually buy it.
Concerned about COVID-19?
Sign up now to get the most recent coronavirus headlines and other important local and national news sent to your email inbox daily.