They are the first in the U.S. to close schools

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Ohio and Maryland will close schools as a precaution against the new coronavirus, the governors for both states announced Thursday.

The states are the first in the U.S. to close schools, though several cities and individual schools have closed after community members have tested positive for the virus, which has now spread to all but five states.

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine said that all public, private and charter schools in Ohio will close after the end of the school day on Monday, according to WLWT. Students were set to begin spring break on Tuesday, and it will now essentially extend for three weeks. The current plan is to resume classes on April 3.

In Maryland, Gov. Larry Hogan said the closure just applies to public schools and will last for two weeks, until March 27.

“It may sound extreme and it may sound frightening, but it could be the difference between saving lives and keeping people safe,” Hogan said in a press conference, according to NBC Washington.

As of Thursday, there are five confirmed cases of coronavirus in Ohio and 13 in Maryland. Nationwide, there are over 1,400 cases and 37 people have died.

“We are in a crisis, so we have to treat it like one. We’re all in this together,” DeWine tweeted on Thursday.

Other states have been hesitant to close schools. While it would help to reduce the spread of coronavirus, many students and families rely on schools for free meals and childcare.

In Japan and Italy, where coronavirus has quickly spread, schools have already closed. Japan said they would close schools for the country’s 12.8 million students until the end of March. Italy announced a two-week closure on March 4, however cases in the country have since soared, with 15,113 sickened and 1,016 deaths, the most outside of mainland China.

The CDC said on Feb. 25 that Americans should plan for a “significant disruption to their lives,” and come up with alternative options for if schools and offices are closed.

The CDC also says that the best coronavirus prevention methods are basic forms of hygiene — careful handwashing, avoiding touching the face, moving away from people who are coughing or sneezing and staying home at signs of illness.

As information about the coronavirus pandemic rapidly changes, PEOPLE is committed to providing the most recent data in our coverage. Some of the information in this story may have changed after publication. For the latest on COVID-19, readers are encouraged to use online resources from CDC, WHO, and local public health departments and visit our coronavirus hub.