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School nurses busy with coronavirus testing, contact tracing

The South Carolina School Nurse Association says nurses need more help to get the job done.

COLUMBIA, S.C. — In December, many South Carolina schools began rapid COVID-19 testing for students and staff. Now, two months into the program, school nurses are saying they need more help to get the job done. 

"This has been the biggest undertaking school nurses have faced this year. It’s a massive job," said President of the South Carolina Association of School Nurses, Amanda Santamaria. 

According to the state Department of Education, 47 school districts and 12 charter schools offer rapid testing to students and staff. School nurses are largely responsible for that testing and contact tracing.

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"We have heard from some of our members that they’re doing this around the clock. It’s become a second full time job for them," said Santamaria.

She added that contact tracing takes a ton of time and effort on top of the normal responsibilities of a school nurse. 

Some of the responsibilities Santamaria listed were: reporting cases of exposures, notifying parents and checking for close contacts in schools.

Now that Governor Henry McMaster is calling on every district to offer five days of face to face learning, Santamaria said nurses will have even more work to do.

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"They’ll continue to work hard to make it happen but any additional help or support their districts can give will be great. It’s not a one-person job and it sometimes takes a team," she said.

The governor’s proposed budget that he released in January allocates funds for every school to hire its own nurse. Now it’s up to the state legislature to make that happen.

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