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I’m just going to say it: It feels like we’re playing Russian roulette with our kids and our staff

By: Robin Cogan, MEd, RN, NCSN

Apoorva Mandavilli, a journalist from the New York Times, graciously interviewed me about what reopening of schools looks like in the midst of a pandemic. The conversation happened in the context of this past week when the pressure to reopen schools has become a political grenade. Dr. Megan Ranney recommended me for the interview, so a big appreciation to my friend and colleague.

For the past few weeks, I have been feeling a sense of foreboding and that we are being asked to do something profoundly unsafe. I shared my perspective with the journalist and summed up my concern with this statement: “I’m just going to say it: It feels like we’re playing Russian roulette with our kids and our staff.” I don’t like to instill or promote fear but is irresponsible to pretend that school reopening in the fall is business as usual as the President and many in his administration would like us to believe.

We need a national response to COVID-19 from leaders who center the safety of children, not partisan posturing. Is there anywhere that we can agree that the safety of children is paramount. We are missing a national plan. We have no plans for testing, tracing, and isolating. We have no large epidemiological studies to fully understand transmission so that we can make decisions based on evidence.  I haven’t even mentioned the antiquated ventilation systems that plague many aging school buildings or how the transmission could very well be airborne

We are witnessing the death of expertise, a dismissal of the World Health Organization, discounting the guidelines from the CDC, and ignoring what is happening right before our eyes, the exponential spiking of cases across the country. Consequential decisions are being made that will impact the health and safety of students and staff. And that is why I said what I said…

Read more about Robin’s recent media adventures on her blog. First Stop CNN, Stop Number Two – Fox29 Good Morning Philadelphia, and NBC10 Philadelphia.

Robin Cogan, MEd, RN, NCSN is a Nationally Certified School Nurse (NCSN), currently in her 19th year as a New Jersey school nurse in the Camden City School District. She serves on several national boards including The American Foundation for Firearm Injury Reduction in Medicine (AFFIRM), a gun violence prevention research non-profit organization and the National Board of Certification for School Nurses (NBCSN). Robin is the Legislative Chair for the New Jersey State School Nurses Association (NJSSNA). She is proud to be a Johnson & Johnson School Health Leadership Fellow and past Program Mentor.

She has been recognized in her home state of New Jersey and nationally for her community-based initiative called “The Community Café: A Conversation That Matters.” Robin is the honored recipient of multiple awards for her work in school nursing and population health. These awards include 2019 National Association of School Nurses (NASN) President’s Award; 2018 NCSN School Nurse of the Year; 2017 Johnson & Johnson School Nurse of the Year; and the New Jersey Department of Health 2017 Population Health Hero Award. Robin serves as faculty in the School Nurse Certificate Program at Rutgers University-Camden School of Nursing, where she teaches the next generation of school nurses. She was presented the 2018 Rutgers University – Camden Chancellor’s Teaching Excellence Award for Part-time Faculty.

Robin writes a weekly blog called The Relentless School Nurse. You can also follow her on Twitter at @RobinCogan.

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