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'Still a resource’: CCPS school nurses join Carroll County Health Department COVID-19 hotline team

South Carroll school nurse Dawn Reardon takes a call Wednesday, April 22, 2020 while staffing the Carroll County COVID-19 hotline in Westminster. CCPS school nurses are now assigned to work alongside Health Department staff at the County's COVID-19 hotline
South Carroll school nurse Dawn Reardon takes a call Wednesday, April 22, 2020 while staffing the Carroll County COVID-19 hotline in Westminster. CCPS school nurses are now assigned to work alongside Health Department staff at the County's COVID-19 hotline (Dylan Slagle / Carroll County Times)

The nurses of Carroll County Public Schools have joined the team of the COVID-19 call center run by the Carroll County Health Department.

With CCPS nurses on the job, it gives health department personnel the capacity for other tasks like contact tracing, said Health Planner Maggie Kunz. The hotline is headquartered inside a portable classroom at Friendship Valley Elementary School in Westminster. The official first day for nurses was April 14.

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While students are learning at a distance until at least May 14 in Maryland, the call center is now the assigned job duty of all of the school system’s registered nurses and licensed practical nurses. Each shift at the call center consists of four nurses and one member of health department staff.

Kerry McCann, RN, still goes to work at the same location — her regular job is at Friendship Valley. Returning to answer calls for the call center is similar in some ways and different in others.

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“School nursing is community health,” she said. Often she serves as a liaison commenting families to information and resources. At the hotline, “A lot of the calls are basically offering reassurance.”

While they are away from the students and families they work with, “we’re obviously missing them,”' McCann said. “Each school nurse has been doing a lot to stay in touch.”

Carroll County Public Schools nurse Vera Paylor works at her station Wednesday, April 22, 2020 while staffing the Carroll County COVID-19 hotline in Westminster. CCPS school nurses are now assigned to work alongside Health Department staff at the County's COVID-19 hotline
Carroll County Public Schools nurse Vera Paylor works at her station Wednesday, April 22, 2020 while staffing the Carroll County COVID-19 hotline in Westminster. CCPS school nurses are now assigned to work alongside Health Department staff at the County's COVID-19 hotline (Dylan Slagle / Carroll County Times)

The calls can vary. Some are helping businesses find out the best way to operate within health department guidelines.

Others can involve directing a person whether to seek out treatment or help from a health care provider if they are experiencing concerning symptoms.

Kunz said the call volume is about 30 calls per day. “The average is definitely lower than when we started, but we are expecting the number to increase again as we are able to do more testing and contact tracing,” she said.

McCann said she thinks there is a lot of information swirling and it is helpful for the public to know there is place they can call knowing they’re talking to a reliable source who can help them think through things and process information.

And in the meantime, she hopes her students know “the at the school nurse is still a resource. It just looks different now.”

RNs and LPNs are represented under separate employee groups.

Erin Yeagley, UniServ Director for Carroll County said via email that the Carroll County Education Association is proud of its nurses “as we are of all our members, who are coping with dramatically changed work tasks, and doing what they can to help the community."

“Nurses by their nature serve others, so it’s important to make sure they are supported and protected while they do that,” Yeagley said. "All CCEA members are looking out for each other while they serve families in new ways in this crisis. People are really coming together to support each other, and that is wonderful to see.”

Carroll Association of School Employees (CASE) President Diane Deal said via email: “All of our CASE Bargaining Unit Members have taken on different rolls and jobs. We are all making adjustments to best serve the Students and the Carroll County Public Schools System. CASE is proud of all our members for stepping up during a world wide pandemic.”

Anyone who thinks they or a family member might be showing coronavirus symptoms can call the Carroll County Health Department’s COVID-19 hotline, which is available 8 a.m. through 5 p.m. seven days a week at 410-876-4848, or contact their doctor. After hours, callers may leave a message or call 211. People with emergencies should continue to call 911.

Registered Nurse Jeanne Patterson, left, who works as a school nurse at Mechanicsville Elementary School, left, and Mary Peters, who works as a nurse at Winters Mill High School and West Middle School work Wednesday, April 22, 2020 while staffing the Carroll County COVID-19 hotline in Westminster. CCPS school nurses are now assigned to work alongside Health Department staff at the County's COVID-19 hotline
Registered Nurse Jeanne Patterson, left, who works as a school nurse at Mechanicsville Elementary School, left, and Mary Peters, who works as a nurse at Winters Mill High School and West Middle School work Wednesday, April 22, 2020 while staffing the Carroll County COVID-19 hotline in Westminster. CCPS school nurses are now assigned to work alongside Health Department staff at the County's COVID-19 hotline (Dylan Slagle / Carroll County Times)

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