NORTH ADAMS — Every morning, Amanda Davis tackles work in schools with a COVID-spotting mission: “Find those positives before they enter the classrooms.”
North Adams Public School head nurse Friday morning conducted rapid tests at Drury High School for the test and stay program, testing people who have been in close contact with someone with COVID-19. Then she delivered supplies to Colegrove Park Elementary School and helped run tests there to find out who might have COVID from a pool of tests that came back positive.
It was before 11 a.m.
His days can be unpredictable. “I never know what I’m getting into. Some days I barely keep my head above water,” she said. “I try to come in with goals for the day, we have to accomplish this, test here. Sometimes I put out fires or issues and problems and kind of act like a detective to figure out who was where. – where was this student and who they had contact with.”
After testing Friday morning, Davis and Lisa Randall, the district’s COVID-19 coordinator, sat down at a table to enter the morning’s test results into their laptops. They worked in a makeshift office in the basement of Drury High School. Cabinets are full of rapid tests and there are stashes of tissues and hand sanitizer, and two of the walls are lined with shelves filled with stacks of stored books, high school English classics like “Moby-Dick”, “The Grapes of Wrath”, and “The Odyssey”.
In the fall, the number of COVID-19 cases at the school was relatively low according to principal Tim Callahan.
“Things have been good in the community since Christmas,” Callahan said.
Between Jan. 6 and Jan. 12, 44 students and 11 district staff tested positive for COVID-19, according to data from the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. In the previous two weeks, between Dec. 23 and Jan. 5, 62 students and 25 district staff tested positive, according to DESE data.
Although cases are higher this winter than in the fall, the school has no evidence that cases are spreading in the school, which would justify moving a class or grade level to distance learning, Callahan said.
Davis, who is also a clinical instructor at Berkshire Community College, started working in the district this school year after doing substitute nursing.
Her position is usually focused on managing the school’s nurses, but “this year has been pretty much everything about COVID,” she said. “Everyone’s life is COVID right now.”
Randall helps nurses with contact tracing, testing and reporting cases to DESE, among other duties. She went into labor in the fall. “My goal is to keep the kids in school,” she said.
Contact tracing helps with this, although tracing children presents challenges. “Who are you having lunch with? Davis said she asks the students. “I was having lunch with Suzy,” she replied. “Suzy who? Oh, I don’t know her last name,” she said.
“Honestly, I feel like a detective most of the time,” Davis said.
She is also working to call families when students test positive. “Some parents are difficult to deal with. Unfortunately, some people think it’s politics,” she said. secondary school and the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). And we have to say, you know, your child tested positive, he has to be quarantined for so long and he can’t come back. You get parents who are angry,” she said.
Many parents take this seriously, she added. It can be difficult to tell parents that their child needs to be quarantined, knowing the parents are working and that can create childcare issues, Davis said. “I get it, I have three kids myself.”
Last month, when the CDC changed its recommended isolation length from 10 to five days, it caused confusion when Davis spoke to parents. “We follow guidelines, and unfortunately they don’t make sense to people,” she said. “You see an increase in cases and we are reducing the quarantine (period).
Generally, people think of school nursing as “icy sores and scratched knees,” Davis said. But it’s more than that. It is also about taking care of asthma, allergies and mental health issues. but staying the course on vaccinations and getting them through the system and hearing and physical screenings. »
When Davis took the job for the school year, she knew COVID-19 wouldn’t go away, but there were far fewer cases. “It’s more than I thought,” she said. “But I hang on.”