School Sneezing

A patient of mine just sent me a request for a COVID test on her 2 year old that got my head spinning. The kid has no symptoms, and I actually tested her 4 days ago too. But she’s in a daycare where someone else came up positive. Now everyone there has to be tested to return and they’ll be closed the next couple of weeks.

Perhaps you’re an optimist who feels we just need to get through COVID to get back to life as usual. I too am an optimist in that I think life on Earth will continue. However, I am certain we’ll be battling COVID and other microbial threats as long as we’re here. However, as PCR gets better at naming those threats, our chances to party like it’s 2019 will progressively diminish. So to me, jarring disruptions like the one my patient experienced, just don’t seem sustainable. In addition, I think they actually amplify illness as parents frantically scramble for testing and have to rearrange their schedules.

As you probably know, ERs are getting hammered again, which is actually a mixed bag. At least revenues are back up… thank you Delta! (crazy I know) Some ERs and ICUs are loaded with sick, largely unvaccinated patients. But in my micro bubble it’s the nervous, frustrated parents who want immediate COVID test results “to be safe” or “just to go back to school.” However, it’s hard to blame them for coming to ERs if that’s the quickest, easiest option.

You may already know that I write with no expectation to be read. But if this virtual message in a bottle floats to any decision makers, I do think there is one systemic tweak that could really do wonders making life better for parents, teachers and kids in particular. It could apply to business owners as well.Test anyone with unexcused absence… kids, teachers, admin, etc… on return to school AT school. Put the swabs next to the metal detectors if need be. Cut out the pediatricians, urgent cares, ERs.

Here’s my reasoning:

  • Making parents chase around looking for tests amplifies illness, especially if it involves sitting in waiting rooms.
  • It pains me to know that some of my ER patients with garbage insurance and high deductibles (like mine) are getting hit with $1000 ER bills for their swab-n-runs.- Kids who don’t want to go to school just have to fake a sneeze to stay home and make their parents miserable.
  • I know parents are finding alternative reasons for kids staying home just to avoid scrambling for tests: “We went on a trip.” “His allergies were acting up.” “Junior overslept.”
  • Getting tested in the first hour of a sore throat (yes, that’s a thing) is far less valuable to me than a test performed moments before reentry into school.

As an aside, I don’t know if you work in an industry where folks take “sickies.” But a stick up all their noses upon return could really be therapeutic as well.

With one kid in kindergarten and the other in preschool, I’m just waiting for the ball to drop. It’s one thing waiting patiently for my own kids’ noses to dry up. It’ll be quite another having my kids shredding my home while waiting on their fellow students’ and teachers’ noses.

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