Warning, this post is POLITICAL, because nursing is political and I am a nurse.
Public health has been under siege for just about two years, actually longer if you count how under-funded it has been for decades. The anti-masker, anti-vaccine mandate groups have grown exponentially more influential under the ecosystem created by a country that loves its guns more than its children. There, I said it… These quasi-“don’t tread on me,” “don’t take my rights away” masterminds have manipulated their followers to attack science, health and research. They turn a blind eye to actual data and lift sound bites off of far right-wing groups that purposefully spread disinformation in order to create chaos and dissension.
In the end, because this is coming to a crashing end, we will have more sick, parentless children that are suffering extreme toxic stress, not from the “horror” of having to wear a mask, but from the disintegration of their families from a preventable virus. The groups banning books, micro-managing how educators teach about the true history of our country that some call Critical Race Theory, which is really AMERICAN HISTORY, are the same that will ignore a racist failed President who encouraged an insurrection in order to overthrow a Presidential election. Fragile is a limited descriptor for what is happening right before our eyes.
So, what does this have to do with school nursing? It is the foundation of our school nursing practice to implement public health mitigation strategies as a source of preventing the spread of communicable diseases. Surveillance has always been an important role for school nurses since our inception more than 100 years ago. Then, it was the tenements of New York City that served as the great experiment to see if one nurse, Lina Rogers, could reduce absenteeism in the Lower East Side of New York. Lina was placed in her schools by the inspired genius of Lillian Wald, the mother of public health nursing and so much more.
Every day I wake up thinking that we can get through this, but today feels very different. I wrote an Op-Ed with Dr. Comilla Sasson that equated refusal to implement universal masking to sharing your secondhand smoke. You can choose to smoke, but when your smoke impacts my ability to breathe, it is no longer your personal choice, because it impacts others. COVID is airborne, also spread by droplets, but it does transmit in the air after the infected person is no longer present.
Here is the recent CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report from February 4, 2022 / 71
What was not part of the miserable equation that COVID has been is the lack of public will to care about others. If we will not take simple measures to protect other people’s children and our most vulnerable populations then who are we really?
Incivility is rampant, clearly documented in video recordings that have flooded social media of protests at board meetings declaring that masking our children is child abuse. An unmasked father goes to school to pick up his child that is being sent home for COVID-like illness and blows in the face of the school nurse. He shared his fury and his germs on the nurse who was doing her best to keep other people’s children as safe as she was keeping his child. Another parent sends her child back to school after quarantine wearing a tee-shirt that says, “My school nurse has sh*t for brains” on the front and “I don’t have COVID” on the back. Adding insult to injury, the child was allowed to take the vile tee shirt home.
There is more, because these kinds of assaults on school nurses have been on-going for two years. But it is really the assault on public health and the fragility of our democracy that are weighing so heavily on me today, prompting this blog/rant. Back to begin my day, because I do care about other people’s children.