Agency of Education, Health Dept. memo doesn’t address question of Covid-19 vaccination
The Vermont Agency of Education and the Department of Health issued a joint memo to school nurses Wednesday, August 10 for the opening of school relative to COVID-19. The memo gives school nurses recommendations on how to manage symptomatic individuals, implement testing protocols, and suggests communication strategies including the need to work closely with local medical practices.
The memo leaves the option of masking to parents, unless the child is showing symptoms and is being sent home, at which point the nurse will have discretion to require a mask: “Staff and students should be permitted to exercise their own or their family’s decision-making to wear a mask in school settings.”
There is no mention of whether Covid-19 vaccination will be required.
“School nurses have worked tirelessly throughout the pandemic to keep students healthy,” said Health Commissioner Mark Levine, MD. “As we begin to think of COVID-19 as an endemic disease, we once again need to shift our thinking. COVID-19, like the flu, is now a part of our lives.”
The memo puts emphasis on the clinical judgment of school nurses in determining if a student or staff member with mild symptoms is well enough to attend school.
“This will be important as we get into the winter months,” said Dr. Levine, “since the presentation of mild respiratory disease symptoms including a runny nose, nasal congestion, minimal cough, and absence of fever, can enable a student or staff member to stay in school provided they have no current or recent household exposure to COVID-19.”
The use of testing is also outlined in the memo. Schools will be provided a supply of both antigen and LAMP tests to implement the protocol outlined in the memo. Both in-school and take-home testing will be available. Decisions about when to test, and what test to use, will rely on the expertise of school nurses.
“Testing will be used to help inform the clinical decision making of school nurses in their work with symptomatic individuals,” said Secretary of Education Dan French, “but testing should not be required for symptomatic students or staff to return to school.”
Prior to the summer break, antigen and LAMP tests were distributed to schools across the state in anticipation of the upcoming school year. Schools will be able to order additional testing supplies through the Agency of Education website.
“We will no doubt continue to see cases of COVID-19 in our communities and in our schools,” said Secretary French, “but with the advent of vaccination and new treatments, the risks from COVID-19 are much lower than they were two years ago. I am very optimistic that the opening of school this year will proceed with minimal interruption from COVID-19.”
Finally, schools and school districts are encouraged to coordinate their response protocols and testing procedures with pediatric primary care offices in their communities, to improve communication with students and families. This recommendation builds on the strong partnerships built between schools and pediatricians over the last two school years.
Most content from a Vermont Agency of Education press release.