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DES MOINES, Iowa — As the number of infected school-age children rises and with no mask mandates in schools, school nurses are caught in the middle as they work to keep track of COVID-19 cases and exposures.

The latest numbers released Wednesday by the Iowa Department of Public Health show children under the age of 17 now make up more than 20-percent of our state’s newly reported COVID-19 cases.

“It’s been very challenging just like nurses in the hospital, but a lot of schools, either have one nurse for the entire school, or sometimes they do one nurse for multiple different schools. So, it has been extremely challenging in order to support our students, our staff, along with our families that have multiple questions regarding COVID,” says Laura Mears, Clinical Administrator at Blank Children’s Hospital.

As school nurses try to answer those questions, they have a new tool to help them do so. UnityPoint Health is launching a new website with different information available for teachers, parents, and students.

Mears says it will be a helpful resource, especially as they work with the increases in community transmission.      

“So, with that concern we’ve had to look at some additional mitigation strategies, and then back to what can we do from contact tracing and we have to look at all of the different rules and regulations that come from the Iowa Department of Public Health along with, you know, our local public health, and then kind of weigh those options and recommendations that we get from UnityPoint, along with like, like Blank Children’s Hospital,” says Mears.

In order to help keep everyone safe, school nurses are tasked with communicating between the different entities.