Role of school nurses expands during pandemic

There are a multitude of reasons to go to the school nurse — a scraped knee, an asthma attack on the playground, a case of chickenpox, symptoms of the flu, a nap for a migraine. Students go to the school nurse for physical, mental, and emotional support.

Now, with  70 percent of 400 districts planning to return to school fully in-person or in a hybrid model, you can add to the list keeping the pandemic at bay, and guiding parents through new health protocols.

State education officials say that schools must have a designated medical waiting room for students who display symptoms of COVID-19, including fever and cough. The waiting room is intended to keep them separate from others until they can be picked up by a parent.

A recent guidance from the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education suggests school nurses work with local boards of health to develop procedures for several scenarios regarding the designated medical waiting room. These can be staffed by school employees who are CPR/AED certified.

Nurses are required to make sure kids or teachers who test positive for the coronavirus stay home for 10 days and are without fever for 24 hours before returning. They’re also asked to create a process for the delivery and pickup of student medications (imagine a kid needs an insulin shot for diabetes, for instance) with minimal contact.

Nurses’ offices must also make sure school staff members are trained in the donning of personal protective equipment and the safe disposal of it, and the placement of hand sanitizer stations around the school (in public spots because they’re alcohol-based). If the school has access to rapid testing, they’re in charge of that, too.

Patricia Comeau, a Methuen school nurse and spokesperson for the Massachusetts Nurses Association, said she is expected to trace students’ coronavirus symptoms, communicate with local boards of health, and follow up on vaccine records. Parents were tying up her phone lines with questions about COVID-19 and the new flu mandate even before the school year started.

At McKinley Middle School, a Boston public school for students who have psychological issues stemming from trauma, one school nurse told WBUR there are several reasons why he doesn’t believe city schools can reopen safely under current guidelines. He cited concerns over air circulation in the buildings and no plan to test all students and staff for COVID-19 before school starts.

With all the new tasks, some school nurses have pushed for a remote start to classes, citing lack of funding and staffing shortages as key issues that need to be addressed for things to run smoothly.

In Agawam, which is reopening under a hybrid model, the town is collaborating with the Agawam Fire Department and its paramedics to help school nurses. “Unfortunately there is only one nurse and two screening areas,” said Alan Sirois, chief of the Agawam Fire Department to WWLP. “So, at this point, we are staffing all eight schools, four days a week, with paramedics in those screening areas.”

SARAH BETANCOURT

 

FROM COMMONWEALTH

 

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FROM AROUND THE WEB             

 

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

The chair of the Worcester Board of Health is asked by another board member to resign, but refuses, due to her conduct at a meeting the board had with police officials. The Board of Health is in strong disagreement with police officials who claimed there was no racism in their police department. (Telegram & Gazette)

Joan Vennochi has a good account of the conundrum Mayor Marty Walsh faces in getting Faneuil Hall Marketplace back on its feet. (Boston Globe)

Jamaica Plain has a community fridge, where hungry people can find free food and drinks. (WBUR)

HEALTH/HEALTH CARE

The CEO of Cambridge-based Moderna said results on the company’s vaccine trial should be available by November. (Boston Globe)

WASHINGTON/NATIONAL/INTERNATIONAL

Reacting to the incendiary Atlantic magazine story reporting that President Trump branded military service personnel “suckers” and “losers,” military leaders generally say it’s not their way to speak out on public issues. (Boston Globe)

Shortly after his testimony to a Senate committee, President Trump said Dr. Robert Redfield, the director of the CDC, was wrong in his claims about both a vaccine schedule and the efficacy of masks. (New York Times)

ELECTIONS

The new voter guide tones down references to Secretary of State Bill Galvin, after Galvin was admonished by the State Ethics Commission in 2018 for using the voter guide for self-promotion when he was up for reelection. (The Salem News)

A wildly early Boston mayoral race poll puts incumbent Marty Walsh at 46 percent and newly-announced challenger Michelle Wu at 23 percent. (GBH) Meanwhile, Walsh waves off talk of a possible position in a Biden administration. (Boston Herald)

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

The Big E — the iconic West Springfield fair that had been scheduled to start tomorrow — holds smaller events and virtual events but is bleeding money due to this year’s fair cancellation. (MassLive)

EDUCATION

Framingham schools cancel all fall sports because of the community’s designation as high risk for COVID-19. (MetroWest Daily News)

Even before the pandemic erupted last spring, Boston’s aging schools faced a backlog of repairs and problems. GBH raises the question of whether they can handle the repairs needed to safely open during a pandemic.

The Andover teachers union is considering appealing a decision of the state’s labor relations board, which found that their refusal to enter school buildings and instead work outside constituted an illegal strike. (Eagle-Tribune)

Justice Department lawyers urged a federal Appeals Court to overturn a lower court ruling that let stand Harvard admission policies that use race as a factor in acceptance decisions. (Boston Globe)

A second-grade remote class in Taunton takes an X-rated turn. (Taunton Gazette)

ARTS/CULTURE

The New Repertory Theatre of Watertown launches “moving plays” outdoors. (MetroWest Daily News)

The Thanksgiving parade in Plymouth has been called off due to coronavirus concerns. (Patriot Ledger) Another family favorite, Barrett’s Haunted Mansion in Abington, is cancelled.

TRANSPORTATION

The Boston to Worcester Heart to Hub express commuter train is set to resume service November 2, with a first train earlier in the day, at 6:30 a.m., and an additional stop in Framingham. Express service had been suspended during the pandemic. (Telegram & Gazette)

Despite passing laws to close holes in the reporting system, Massachusetts has made little progress over 30 years ensuring that dangerous drivers are taken off the road. (Boston Globe)

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

The Conservation Law Foundation has notified the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection and the towns of Barnstable and Mashpee of its intent to file a lawsuit to stop septic systems from pumping nitrogen and phosphorus pollution into local waterways. (Cape Cod Times)

CRIMINAL JUSTICE/COURTS

DigBoston writes that 78 percent of people on parole who were returned to custody between March and June 2020 were sent back for technical violations, not for new crimes.

The adult son of a former Holyoke police sergeant is arrested and charged with making pipe bombs. (MassLive)

Berkshire District Attorney Andrea Harrington, who was pulled over for a traffic violation and found to have a suspended license, said she only learned her license was suspended during the traffic stop. She says the suspension was due to a mistake by a New York court, which did not register that she paid a speeding ticket in that state. (MassLive)

Federal prosecutors are pressing for swifter action in their case against Newton District Court Judge Shelley Joseph. (Boston Herald)

MEDIA

The Hartford City Council passes a resolution urging Alden Global Capital, “the destroyer of newspapers,” to use its influence as the largest shareholder of the parent company of the Hartford Courant, to stop the layoffs and cost-cutting. Alden, through a separate company, owns the Boston Herald and Lowell Sun. (Hartford Courant)

Retired Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz sues CNN for $300 million in a libel suit over the network’s reporting on his work on President Trump’s impeachment defense team. (Boston Globe)

PASSINGS

Stanley Crouch, a combative black jazz critic whose writings ranged across many fields and included taking aim at creative icons such as Toni Morrison and Spike Lee, died at age 74. (NPR)

Jennette Belichick, the mother of Patriots coach Bill Belichick, dies at 98. (Associated Press)