By Anna Jauhola
As the coronavirus continues to surge in Minnesota, many schools have had the opportunity to implement their own testing for COVID-19, including schools in Kittson County.
Jeanna Kujava is the school nurse for Kittson Central, Lancaster and Tri-County schools, and is also the Kittson County public health director. She helped each school apply for and successfully receive grants to purchase CUE testing materials.
“Recently, we’ve had an uptick in cases,” Kujava said. “It’s convenient to get your results sooner than later. With the proper description for kids, they seem to get it — we’re using it to collect some boogers. Then they usually relax a little bit, because who wants boogers?”
So far, Kujava has done some testing at Kittson Central and Lancaster schools. The schools received permission from parents prior to doing a test. The majority of those tests were done in a drive-through fashion – Kujava met them outside the school, swabbed the child or children’s noses and used the CUE machine inside to perform the test.
The schools in Kittson County have chosen to use the CUE testing as a point-of-care testing, meaning it’s used when there’s an exposure, symptoms or an outbreak. Other schools have chosen to randomly test a percentage of the population each week.
“It seemed to be a good process. We’re still trying to figure out how we’re going to use this option of testing in the most efficient way,” Kujava said. “It was kind of nice to get a few tests under our belt to see how it was well received by the parents.”
Kujava has trained, and will train more, people at each school to perform the tests, as she is not at the schools each day.
These rapid tests will allow schools to make quicker decisions and hopefully allow more kids and staff to stay in school. While someone presenting more common COVID symptoms will likely be sent home anyway, those who only have a runny nose, for example, could be ruled out with a negative test at school.
Kujava said this option of testing at schools can also help alleviate congestion at the local clinics, in the case a large number of staff or students need to get tested.
Since the beginning of December, according to the Department of Health website, Kittson County has added over 100 COVID positive cases. Kujava said there is simply high transmission of the virus everywhere. Plus, travel for Thanksgiving and a successful fall sports season likely contributed to the rise in numbers. The rise in cases affected Kittson Central so much, Superintendent Bob Jaszczak began requiring masks at the beginning of December through the Christmas break.
Many kids have been out of school, but it’s a mix of positive COVID cases and exposure to the virus, which requires quarantine in different situations. For those who are unvaccinated, they are quarantined regardless.
A fully vaccinated individual – two weeks after one Johnson & Johnson shot or two Pfizer or Moderna shots – will not be asked to quarantine after exposure. However, they will be asked to test if they develop symptoms. If they test positive for COVID, then a fully vaccinated individual would be asked to quarantine.
“A lot of times, people will be encouraged to wear a mask for 14 days after exposure,” Kujava said. “That would be my recommendation if a vaccinated person had a symptom and had an exposure.”
At this point, with the delta variant of COVID still prevalent and the omicron variant creeping its way across the U.S., Kujava encourages people to get back to basics — handwashing, covering coughs and sneezes, staying home when you’re sick, and getting tested for COVID. She noted that hospitals are still inundated, which can lead to unavailable care for critical patients, whether they have COVID or another condition.
“It feels like a broken record, for sure, but it’s even harder now. Everybody’s just done,” Kujava said. “We want to be done with all of this. But hopefully people can kind of think a little further down the road and recognize that a decision they make today can really impact the months to come.”
By Anna Jauhola