District nurses obtain rapid response COVID-19 tests

Kris Long, Print Editor-in-Chief

In light of increasing COVID-19 cases, school nurse Robin Mall has gained access to Abbott rapid response COVID-19 testing as of Sept. 13 for students who come to the nurse’s office with symptoms of coronavirus.

USD 383 has also provided these tests to Angela Bird, the nurse at Manhattan High East campus, as well as Woodrow Wilson and Amanda Arnold school nurses Mindi Sturm and Renee Morton respectively. Other schools are expected to have access to rapid tests as well once nurses are trained.

Students who report symptoms over the course of a day can receive testing before leaving school, but those who have been experiencing symptoms for a shorter period of time will be asked to leave school and make an appointment with the nurse to get tested in the parking lot the next day.

“If a student comes and they have… certain complaints that are common to COVID-19, including headaches, sore throat, just what I would call general malaise, they just don’t feel good. A lot of kids don’t have fevers… Those are the symptoms that I look for and then also how long the symptoms have been occurring,” Mall said. “If the symptoms have just been over the past couple of hours, I would prefer that they come back the next day, not to school, but that I would arrange a meeting for them the next day and then I would go out to the car and check them. And if they have been having symptoms for a day or two, then I can use my best judgment and decide if I want to do a COVID test or not.”

Julianna Poe

Tests will only be administered to symptomatic students. 

Concern was brought up during citizen comments of the Wednesday school board meeting that these tests are not accurate. While the specific tests provided to school nurses are not yet FDA approved, there are currently no approved tests available due to the short period of time they have been manufactured. According to Mall, they are as accurate as any other medical test. All medical tests have levels of accuracy, including common ones such as flu and strep throat, and the name brand Abbott has a history of manufacturing highly accurate tests.

“There is nothing in the world that’s 100% all of the time except for gravity and the earth spinning,” Mall said. “There’s always a margin of error.”

The tests will aid the school in organizing, which students need to quarantine, have COVID-19 or are sick with another illness.

“The tests help determine what the course of action should be… [whether] this student should stay home or if they feel better they can come back to school,” Mall said. “The goal of having these tests is to prevent unnecessary absenteeism, and also to identify those students who have COVID so that we can continue to not have outbreaks at the high school, like we’ve done.”