It was bound to happen sooner or later; both my twins sneezing, snotting, and running a 100-degree fever. We were three weeks into the start of hybrid school. My motherly instinct was to chalk it up to the cold my husband brought home the week prior. The symptoms were nearly identical.
But after I let doubt creep in, I bounced back and forth between “Wait, COULD this be COVID” and “No, I’m sure it’s just a cold. They’re not even that sick!” The symptoms of COVID in kids are nearly identical to those of a common cold! Overlapping symptoms include cough, fever, sore throat, and headache.
I read this NY Times article multiple times, hoping it would tell me what to do!
I’ll save you the suspense…my instincts were correct (thank God) and it was not COVID, but the journey we took to confirm that answer surprised me.
My twins missed one day of school post-illness to be sure they were fever-free for 24 hours upon return. They were feeling much better and we assumed they’d be welcomed back in school the next day. The school nurse, however, called with another idea in mind.
Although the word mandatory was never explicitly spoken, it was strongly suggested we get a negative COVID test before returning to school. This took us by surprise and we spent the rest of the day franticly calling around, looking for a rapid test. (Unfortunately, most pediatrician offices do not have tests). Without a rapid test, the twins would have to miss God knows how many more days of school, while waiting on results.
After a two hour wait at urgent care, then another 30 minutes for results, our twins got the clean bill of health needed for school….but it got me thinking….
How many hours would we be spending at urgent care this year!? If a test is required every time my kids get sick, we will be living at the clinic!
I started asking my friends who live in various states, “Is a negative COVID test required after illness at your school?” I was surprised to hear a variety of different answers! One school in NJ requires a negative test for any fever, but sniffles were fine. One school in NY requires kids to quarantine for two weeks at the sign of ANY illness! (God save the working parents!).
Like most of our country’s response to this pandemic, it was a patchwork of illness policies, one different from the next.
I appreciate the need to keep this virus out of our schools in order to protect our community. We have been extremely cautious since the pandemic began in March and want to safeguard all of the hard work we’ve put in as a town.
However, I also realize that getting your child tested may not be easy for all parents. What working parent can spend hours at a time at urgent care? How can low-income families with no health insurance afford a test to clear their child? Until testing is more widespread and affordable, this is going to pose a challenge to parents of school-aged children. (Why affordable rapid testing is not available in the parking lot of every pediatrician is beyond me!).
But as it currently stands, school administrators are seriously stuck between a rock and a hard place with no easy answers.
So my advice to you, dear readers, is to ask your school what their illness policy is now! Plan ahead and research how to get tested! Don’t be caught off guard, scrambling in search of a test at the eleventh hour. Know what is needed before you see a 100-degree temperature come across your thermometer!
Click here for a list of Fairfield County COVID-19 testing sites. (Get there early! Some sites get so busy that testing is cut off by noon).