Michael Paulsen  /  AP
Merlene York uses disinfectant to wipe down lunch tables at Mary McAshan Gibbs Pre-K Center Tuesday, in Huntsville, Texas. Across the U.S., 187 schools had closed following swine flu outbreaks, affecting nearly 80,000 students, the Education Department said.
updated 9/30/2009 9:21:00 AM ET 2009-09-30T13:21:00

Closing schools and day care centers because of swine flu could cost between $10 billion and $47 billion, a report by the Brookings Institution think tank found.

The government is urging schools to close only as a last resort, such as when large numbers of kids or staffers come down with swine flu.

But in the month since classes began, many schools have closed. As of Monday, there had been at least 187 school dismissals across the country affecting at least 79,678 students, the Education Department said.

The report issued Wednesday by Brookings' Center on Social and Economic Dynamics estimated that the cost of closing all schools in the U.S. for four weeks would be between $10 billion to $47 billion. Brookings called that a conservative estimate.

Keeping kids home from school would require parents to stay home from work too, and some of those parents are health care workers, the report said.

The report also said:

  • The cost of mass school closures in selected cities would be $65 million for Washington, D.C., $1.1 billion for New York City and $1.5 billion for Los Angeles County.
  • Mass school closures would cause 12 percent of workers to be absent; absenteeism could be higher in lower-income households with only one worker.
  • The value of lost class time is estimated to be $6.1 billion.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Video: Fighting on the swine flu frontlines

  1. Closed captioning of: Fighting on the swine flu frontlines

    >>> wanchai ferry. restaurant quality chinese

    >>> we're back now with something of a sign of the times . a company in salt lake city stepped up swine flu masks for medical workers. they are working 24/7 to meet the demands. they expect sales of the masks to triple. it's all about protecting health care workers on the front lines of ap epidemic. our report from our chief science correspondent, robert bazell .

    >> reporter: the fire department of new york , fdny, the city's bravest, the country's largest employs 11,400 firefighters, more than 2800 paramedics. now, there's a new danger. commissioner, how seriously do you take the threat of the new flu virus ?

    >> as soon as this new strain of flu was identified, we started taking precautions.

    >> reporter: firefighters live in close quarters, not unlike the college dorm where the viruses spread widely. fdny firefighters get the message to stay home, if they feel sick.

    >> they are an extended family. they don't want to put their own co-workers at risk.

    >> reporter: there's risk of infection from the job, itself.

    >> a typical picture of a firefighter is fighting fire. we have a high percentage of medical runs we respond to.

    >> reporter: first responders are issued respirators when they are come in contact with sick people. the department is offering seasonal flu vaccines and will offer the swine flu vaccine in november. firefighter dan hall is not that war royed.

    >> it's good to get the flu shot . i keep my hands clean . we'll go with the odds, we'll be okay.

    >> reporter: in a city of 8 million, they are no stronger to an infectious disease . the city's bravest have yet another brave to handle. they would work extra shifts. they could continue to protect the city. they are supposed to have similar preparedness plans.

    >> you asked our viewers to write in, post on our website where the flu is, where they live, how hospitals are coping. what did you learn?

    >> we heard a lot of outbreaks in florida, texas, tennessee, colorado. huge outbreaks. people telling us about hospital overcrowding. schools are coping well. others said they are not. it varies enormously. people are worried about shortages of seasonal flu vaccine before the swine flu vaccine arrives. it's because of distribution problems. it will eventually be resolved. they are worried about not getting tests. testing is not official at this point.

    >> nightly.msnbc.com, we want to keep hearing from folks. i know you'll keep hearing about it.


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