Nurses should drive decisions in schools’ Covid mitigation efforts, Vermont officials say

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Traffic stops for parents and kids on the first day of school at Hinesburg Elementary School in August 2021. File photo by Glenn Russell/VTDigger

When it comes to decisions about Covid-19 in schools during the upcoming school year, nurses will be at the front lines.

Newly released state guidance encourages nurses to play a “pivotal role” in schools’ Covid mitigation efforts, the Vermont Agency of Education and Department of Health said in a Wednesday press release.

The new, three-page guidance memo, signed by Vermont Secretary of Education Dan French and Health Commissioner Mark Levine, is aimed at establishing protocols for what officials described as “endemic” Covid-19 in schools when students return this fall. 

“We will no doubt continue to see cases of COVID-19 in our communities and in our schools,” French said in the press release. “But with the advent of vaccination and new treatments, the risks from COVID-19 are much lower than they were two years ago. I am very optimistic that the opening of school this year will proceed with minimal interruption from COVID-19.”

Over the past school year, state officials released shifting recommendations, advising schools to implement a series of different Covid-19 testing, isolation and masking procedures.  

By the end of the school year, however, most of that guidance had been rescinded

The state released a few hard-and-fast recommendations Wednesday. For example, anyone who tests positive for Covid should follow health department guidance — meaning they should isolate for at least five days. Covid tests should be used only for symptomatic students and staff, and schools should not require a negative test result for kids to attend class.

But for the most part, decisions relating to Covid-19 will be in the hands of school nurses. 

Nurses will also determine when to administer tests to students, when to send tests home, when to allow a symptomatic student to stay in class and when to require a symptomatic student to wear a mask. 

Before the end of school in the spring, state officials shipped 325,000 rapid Covid-19 tests to schools across the state. Schools will be able to order more from the state if needed during the year, officials said. 

The memo suggests that education officials name a “school nurse leader” to lead Covid-19 responses. 

“For the upcoming school year, our approach to testing will be a bit different,” French and Levine wrote. “With testing no longer a first-line strategy for COVID-19 prevention in Vermont, school nurses should revisit their pre-COVID-19 school sickness policies. This is an opportunity to identify possible improvements based upon lessons learned during the COVID-19 pandemic, keeping in mind public health principles in the prevention of all respiratory diseases.”

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Peter D'Auria

About Peter

Peter D’Auria covers education for VTDigger. Prior to moving to Vermont, he worked for The Jersey Journal, The Chilkat Valley News and Willamette Week. He is originally from Portland, Oregon.

Email: [email protected]

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