You are witnessing the death of expertise

Author(s): Robin Cogan, MEd, RN, NCSN

Planning for school reopening seems insurmountable, yet, those who are involved in the details continue efforts to keep our students and staff safe. It feels like we are writing plans in the sand, with constantly shifting information that changes with the tide.

Children may get a less severe form of COVID-19, but we do not know how/if they transmit the virus. Children over the age of 12 can probably transmit the virus like an adult, but those younger may not. The real conversation is about safety, keeping our students and staff safe. Can we reopen schools safely?

Now the White House plans to issue its own guidelines about school reopening because the CDC guidelines are deemed too cumbersome and expensive. This is the death of expertise happening before our eyes in real-time.

How can we balance student and staff safety, based on CDC guidelines and at the same time are told The White House is now planning on releasing their own guidelines that will be less cumbersome and less costly? What does that mean? It feels like school reopening is going to be a horrific game of Russian Roulette. Wear masks, stop gathering, don’t eat inside, avoid crowds, but by all means, reopen schools but don’t pay attention to the CDC guidelines.

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 epidemiologic studies that understand transmission so that we can make data-driven decisions. Where is the research? Why don’t we have the data that we need? How is it possible to implement a plan in 6 weeks without proper guidelines, data, research, and a process to test, trace, and isolate.

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. If you were the decision-maker, what would you do?

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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