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Coronavirus cases in U.S. prompt Howard County Chinese School to cancel Lunar New Year gala as a precaution

The Howard County Chinese School’s annual Chinese New Year Gala has been canceled due to the potentially deadly novel coronavirus that now has two confirmed cases in the United States.

As a precautionary measure, the school’s management team decided to cancel the gala and food fair scheduled for Feb. 1. The Chinese Lunar New Year begins Saturday and is followed by a week-long Spring Festival.

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“It is a very hard decision. However, health and safety of our teachers, students, parents and guests are our first priorities to any event that HCCS sponsors,” wrote Wei Guo, the chair of the school’s board of directors, in an email to VIP guests Friday morning.

The school took into consideration the often high travel volume between the United States and China during Spring Festival.

The school’s Chinese New Year Gala is its “most celebrated event,” taking months to prepare for and requiring a large volunteer staff, according to the email. The event includes a food fair, performances, a cultural exhibition and a sponsor table.

About 1,000 people were expected to attend the event at Glenelg High School, Guo said in an email to the Howard County Times. The school will begin to refund ticket sales.

While the yearly event takes a lot of effort, money, time and people, it was worth canceling for the “health and safety of people in [the] community and society,” Guo wrote.

The new coronavirus was first detected in December in Wuhan City, an industrial and transportation hub in central China.

This week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed two cases in the United States. On Friday, a case was confirmed in Chicago and, on Tuesday, the first case was confirmed in Washington. Both patients had recently traveled to Wuhan.

“It is likely there will be more cases reported in the U.S. in the coming days and weeks,” the CDC said.

Other confirmed cases are being reported in Japan, Hong Kong, South Korea, Thailand, Vietnam and Singapore.

Worldwide, 939 cases have been confirmed with 26 deaths as of Friday afternoon, according to the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University.

Initial symptoms of the new coronavirus include fever, cough, tightness of the chest and shortness of breath.

As of Thursday, the World Health Organization has not declared the virus a global health emergency.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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