New guidance offered for school nurses facing COVID-19 challenges

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AUSTIN (Nexstar) — As schools across the state begin to reopen, school nurses are facing extra pressure as districts rely on them to help safely proceed with classes during the pandemic.

“We have to do the temperature checks, we have to do assessments, we have to make sure that everyone is wearing their masks, and then everyone is social distancing,” Ysleta Independent School District nurse Michele Beebe explained.

It’s something school nurses have been thinking about for months. Wimberley ISD nurse Darelle Jordan said she worked through the summer to make sure her district was ready.

“How are we going to do this? Are we going to do it really well? What’s the balance between kids at school and safety of everybody?” Jordan asked.

Jordan said she and her staff asked those questions daily in the weeks leading up to school and said she was thankful when the Texas Medical Association stepped in to help.

TMA released a flow chart earlier this week to help these nurses navigate symptoms a student might present on-campus.

“You don’t want to send every child who has a cough related to their asthma home. I mean, that’s the whole point is that going home is not where we want them, because it’s hard for them to get educated,” Jordan said.

“A child with asthma, who presents with a cough, the first thing to do is make sure that their asthma is appropriately treated, and then to assess whether they’ve had an exposure or need to be considered as a possible COVID patient,” TMA COVID-19 Task Force member Dr. Valerie Smith explained.

She said it’s also important for school nurses to monitor community spread in their area.

“When community levels of COVID are high, then a symptom that’s consistent with COVID is more likely to be COVID than when levels in the community are low,” Dr. Smith said.

Jordan said she’s ready to help her students no matter what.

“They’re not just another COVID number. They’re our neighbors, you know, so we’re ready,” Jordan said.

Dr. Smith said it’s important for parents to check with their child daily to see if they’re showing any symptoms, and to take their temperature before dropping them off at school.

She also said it could be helpful to school nurses if parents were able to mitigate their non-COVID-related tasks at home, since nurses will have so much more to deal with this year.

“If you have a medicine that normally is taken three times a day, maybe it really needs to be taken three times a day, and the child absolutely needs to take it at school. Maybe a conversation with the child’s pediatrician or physician would allow you to space that to twice a day, and then they wouldn’t have to take it at school,” Dr. Smith explained.

Sick Students at School

Austin ISD will place students exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms in a staging room to isolate them until a family member can pick them up. Round Rock ISD will do the same.

Round Rock ISD also lists in its plan, schools will remove other students from any area the sick student used until they can disinfect.

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