BOISE, Idaho — It hasn't been an easy semester for anyone involved in education, and some of the busiest workers inside any school building right now are the school nurses.
"So busy, in fact, it makes it difficult for me to do immunization checks and things I really need to do because there's a lot of phone calls, a lot of emails from parents, and they'd like to be answered right away," said Emmett School District school nurse Suzi Morgan. "I think it's taken a lot more time than I ever anticipated."
High on the to-do list for nurses across Idaho is administering COVID tests. That's where Crush the Curve comes in. Crush the Curve Idaho trained school nurses, like Suzi, to do the tests.
"Crush the Curve came out and tested the other nurse and me and demonstrated how to do the testing so we could stay safe as well, and it was pretty straightforward, very easy, but when we test, we don't want to do it within a school," said Morgan. "We go out to the car or someplace outside the building, so we're not bringing that potentially infected person into the building."
Crush the Curve Idaho works with 20 school districts across the state, providing testing materials, training, and technology. The tests are sent to ten labs, depending on location.
"Probably the heaviest tester that we have is the Wilder School District; they started off right away doing surveillance testing," said Crush the Curve Idaho executive director Tina Upson.
Surveillance testing means testing without a known concern the individual has COVID.
"As school districts really look at what are the protocols to be able to stay open safely, it's really going to involve a heavy percentage of surveillance testing, of really genuinely proactively testing, and not just as needed testing which is quite frankly what we do in Idaho, and that's why our percentage of positivity is so high," explained Upson.
Surveillance testing is not the reason numbers are going up.
"Often time, you'll hear people say 'the reason we have so many positives is because we're testing so much,'" said Morgan. "Anyone that you ask who's an expert will explain to you the percentage of positives is so high, it tells us we're not testing even close to enough."
The workload has been amplified for nurses like Suzi this year, but after 27 years in the profession, this won't be her last one.
"I'm not going out on a rough year," said Suzi.
She also has a reminder for parents.
"Keep your sick kids home, please, and wear a mask."
Crush the Curve recently secured a couple of large grants used to deploy smart thermometers for the schools. The group is also working with the Idaho Department of Health & Welfare to perform COVID-19 testing for staff and residents of Idaho's long-term care facilities.