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COVID-19 changes the work of Havre school nurse


Last updated 11/23/2020 at 12:24pm

Havre Daily News/ Kimberly Bolta

Havre Public School District Nurse Jeri Erickson, who took her mask off to be photographed, stands in front of Havre High School student's art display Friday in the foyer by the high school office. Erickson said dealing with COVID-19 in the Havre school district is dominating her life right now.

Havre Public Schools Nurse Jeri Erickson has seen a big change in her job duties since the beginning of the school year. Instead of fixing cuts, looking at bumps and bruises and tending to headaches, she is dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic. 

"I deal with COVID all day long, from the beginning of my day until the end of my day, into the evenings, and on the weekends. All the time," Erickson said.

Erickson handles the contact tracing within the school district. When the health department alerts her to a positive test result of a person who was in the schools while possibly infectious, she then she does the tracing through the classrooms.

"K-5 that's only one classroom and maybe the lunchroom and PE, but in 6 through 12 we are looking at 6-8 classrooms per day plus any extracurricular activities," she said.

The health department contacts the people who may have been in contact with the person who tested positive after Erickson has done the contact tracing through the school and has given them the list of names. 

"It's a big job, and it's a lot of work," said Erickson. "I'm taking it day by day. It is how it is. We have to keep our community safe the best way that we can."

A look at before and after

Before COVID-19, Erickson used to see students for headaches, broken bones, stomach aches, coughs and sneezes. She said she still does some of that, along with the part-time nurse the district has hired to help her out, however, now new protocols are in place. 

Every school has the list of COVID symptoms and if the students have them, they cannot be in school. 

Erickson also used to do hearing screenings, vision screenings and immunizations, but said a lot of that has been put on hold. She said that the part-time nurse is working on doing the hearing screenings now, along with helping Erickson. 

"My typical day consists of updating our COVID tab on the website; communicating with the health department; I do the contact tracing for the students, and then I have a million different data sheets that I enter the information into. I communicate with the principals daily about quarantined kids. I have started doing BiNex Now testing with our staff if they are symptomatic of COVID. That is a rapid test. If it is positive, I report it to both the health department and the state," said Erickson.

Students and staff experience stress

Erickson said the daily activities of students and staff have been transformed while handling the COVID-19 restrictions.

"It is a huge change for us this year," Erickson said.

Both students and staff are frustrated with everything changing, she said. Everyone is being strong, and people realize this is not forever. 

The staff are remaining positive and upbeat to encourage the students and keep spirits up she said.

The students and staff are following the mask guidelines throughout the school system, Erickson said. She does not see masks being traded or not worn from kindergarten through grade 12, she said.

"They are doing amazing," she said.

Misinformation is common in the schools, Erickson said. The quarantine rules and isolation rules are confusing and elaborate and are most commonly the misinformation she hears. The school follows the health departments guidelines closely and try to give out the most accurate information possible she said. 

Names of positive students are never released by the staff; however, students talk to each other and being a small community, the students do find out who tested positive sometimes, Erickson said.

"They have Snapchat, they have Facebook and texting, so that information does get out sometimes, but it doesn't come from the district or the health department," she said.   

A possible increase in cases

"The holiday season concerns me," Erickson said.

Erickson said she feels that there may be an uptick in cases after Thanksgiving and even more after Christmas. 

Winter sports is also a concern for Erickson. Many young athletes are in wrestling, girls' and boys' basketball, hockey and club wrestling. Erickson has been working closely with the coaches to ensure they know how to keep their teams safe. 

"I'm really hoping we can keep our sports teams safe this winter and we are doing everything we can to make sure that happens," said Erickson.

In fall sports, Erickson said, she did not see an increase in positive cases, but she did see an increase in student-athletes getting quarantined. If a positive person is on the team, it is very probable that the whole team will be quarantined, she said. 

Erickson said social distancing, wearing a mask, washing hands and avoiding large gatherings will help keep the students and staff safe. Keeping the holiday gatherings small is also key she said. 

Information on Havre Public Schools Website

Erickson manages the public schools COVID information on the https://www.blueponyk12.com

People can scroll down just a little bit on the page and click on the COVID-19 information link. On the next page a tab for COVID-19 District data leads to that information. Erickson said she updates this at least every other day. Every enrolled student, including the virtual students, are a part of that data.


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