The Illinois Association of School Nurses Board of Directors met virtually on April 18th. During that meeting, we discussed many aspects of the current pandemic and its direct implications to our students and school communities. We are aware that there are many unanswered questions school nurses and other school stakeholders have in regards to what schools “will look like” when we re-open. We hear your concerns, and we share them.
At this time, we are all hearing information and directives in “real-time”. Each day we learn more from data analysis and compare our experience to other regions around the county and world. Elected Leaders from IASN are on the Governor’s COVID 19 Task Force, and IASN appointed representatives to sit on other committees that inform Illinois health care decisions (IDPH Immunization Advisory Committee, ANA-Illinois, Illinois Children’s Mental Health Partnership, to name a few). School stakeholders do not definitively know the following about COVID-19. In essence, we do not know the total burden of asymptomatic transmission, particularly in children. We do not know the prevalence of immunity in our populations, and we do not know the impact social distancing in schools may have in preventing the spread of COVID-19 moving forward. The three above variables are key to determining the next steps. A recent article in the Lancet Child Adolescent Health Journal by Viner et al. (2020) emphasizes that interventions/guidelines for safely reopening schools have not been developed yet. I am sure that leaves you feeling unsatisfied, but with that said, this article (and there are more), does provide context for school nurses to weigh in on as interventions are considered, and as new evidence emerges. Emerge it will when states begin to take their first steps in re-opening. That data will be used to determine which measures will be deemed critical for re-opening our schools and, conversely, which interventions provide little value for suppressing COVID-19 in school settings.
Speculation on what our schools will “look like” when they re-open is to abandon the principles of evidence-based decision making. IASN’s partnerships with the principal nurse consultants from ISBE and IDPH will continue in the days ahead, as will our presence on the Governor’s COVID-19 Task Force, and other forums. As always, we will embrace IASN’s mission to serve our school nurses so they can care for their students and school communities.
Juanita Gryfinski RN, MSN, MS, MA, PEL-CSN, NCSN