The summer of 2021 is eerily like the summer of 2020 when it comes to determining what school will look like in the fall. Groundhog Day comes to mind. Remember that iconic movie where Bill Murray was stuck in a loop of repeating the same day over and over again? Well, here we are, a year later and more than 16 months into the pandemic and it we are having the same conversations about school reopening plans. The big difference this year is that we know what works; masking, physical distancing, proper ventilation and contact tracing and yet, these mitigation strategies are being lifted in state after state.
Politicizing masking, vaccinations and vaccination status has helped fuel the uptick in COVID cases driven by the Delta variant. It is unimaginable that we have arrived at this moment, but nonetheless, here we are. School nurses are left wondering what comes next when Governors around the country are lifting mask mandates in school, leaving all of the details to implementing watered down mitigation strategies to school districts. How do we manage the deluge of added responsibilities when we are already stretched to our limits? Summer is a brief reprieve, but fall is right around the corner, and we don’t have a clear game plan for the 2021-2022 school year.
This time last year, many school nurses were part of their school districts’ reopening teams. This year that seems to be happening less and less. Many states are functioning as if COVID is in our rearview mirror, but of course it is not. In New Jersey, my home state, our reopening guidelines recommended no masking needed for fully vaccinated students and staff. But who is tracking the staff? What about our youngest students not yet eligible for the vaccine? The honor system clearly does not work as we see in public spaces that suggest those who are not vaccinated should wear masks, but there is no enforcement. And again, we see an uptick in COVID cases since indoor masking was lifted.
It was exactly one year ago that I was quoted on the front page of the Sunday New York Times:
It prompted a series of news interviews that I chronicled in blog posts:
The Relentless School Nurse: My Adventures in Media – First Stop CNN
The Relentless School Nurse: My Adventures in Media Stop Number Two – FOX29 Good Day Philadelphia
This is why it feels like Groundhog Day…