CAMDEN, NJ — The Camden school district announced Friday that starting March 18 it will close all schools as part of efforts to limit the exposure of thousands of students to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).

The announcement came amid news that Camden County has its second "presumed positive" case, and hours after Gov. Phil Murphy pointed to the inevitability of statewide closures in the face of the pandemic.

"Although our school community has not had any suspected or confirmed cases, as a precautionary measure to prevent any potential exposure to COVID-19 among our school community, we have decided to close the Camden City School District for two weeks, effective March 18," the district said in a statement. 

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Murphy announced 21 additional cases as of Friday — the biggest surge in the state thus far making the total cases 50.

District schools will be closed Monday and then reopen Tuesday for teachers to distribute "remote learning packets" to students.

Schools will then close until at least March 31. 

"The closure affects all school programming, including before- and after-school activities, all athletic and extracurricular practices and competitions during this time,” officials said. 

In discussing closures, Murphy said, “For many districts, that time is now. For others, we're working to ensure that when their time comes, they will be prepared to provide all critical services for their community.”

The governor's office noted that 259,000 New Jersey school kids do not have devices for remote learning — one of many challenges Murphy is working to tackle along with school leaders. 

No word yet on what exactly Camden school children will be sent home with come Tuesday.

Even though 85 percent of New Jersey school districts have acceptable food security plans, Murphy noted that it would leave over 200,000 of the state’s 1.4 million public school children who rely on food provided at school without enough to eat if a statewide shutdown was ordered today. 

As of Friday, there has been at least one death linked to the virus in Bergen County — the epicenter of the pandemic in New Jersey where 17 cases have been presumed positive so far.

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