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Florida school group possibly exposed to virus confined to home

The group from The Benjamin School in Palm Beach Gardens were at a model United Nations event when a student fell ill with cough and fever.
Maria van Kerkhove, Head of the Outbreak Investigation Task Force for World Health Organization (WHO), speaks to the media about the Situation regarding the new Coronavirus, during a press conference at the European headquarters of the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, Wednesday. Efforts to contain a new and deadly virus have intensified Wednesday, as quarantine facilities are set up, many airlines have suspended or significantly cut back flights from China and efforts continue to find a medical remedy. (Martial Trezzini/Keystone via AP) [MARTIAL TREZZINI | AP]

PALM BEACH GARDENS — Thirty students and three teachers from a Florida school are confined to their homes as they await word on whether they were exposed to coronavirus while they attended a four-day conference at Yale University last weekend.

The group from The Benjamin School in Palm Beach Gardens were at a model United Nations event when a student fell ill with cough and fever. Testing indicated the flu, but because the student had come with small group from China, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advised additional testing for coronavirus. Yale cut its conference short and students headed home.

The Florida group expected test results by mid-week but were informed Wednesday that a backlog at the only U.S. lab testing for the virus means they possibly won't hear until the end of the week, the Palm Beach Post reported, citing a letter sent to parents from the school's interim director Thomas J. Reid.

The news comes as worldwide concern is growing over the viral disease. China has reported 170 deaths from the virus and at least 7,700 infections. More people have now been infected by this coronavirus in China than were sickened there during the 2002-2003 SARS outbreak.

Reid told parents that the CDC suggested they could consider allowing the group back on campus. But school doctors advised it would be best for them to remain at home “until we have conclusive news,” Reid wrote.

Health officials across the world are trying to take adequate precautions without triggering mass panic for an illness that has been confirmed in only five people in the U.S. — all of whom are believed to have contracted the virus when traveling abroad.