Mercy Abounds

10-17-2021Nurse's LetterShannon David, RN, NCSN

One of the joys of being in the front office is interacting with students who come in happily bearing “yellow” cards. Following OLMC’s Student Learning Expectations, this year’s focus is on being “Merciful”. The yellow cards are given to a student, by an administrator, teacher or staff member, when spontaneous acts of generosity, compassion, forgiveness or support towards another are witnessed. Each card details what the student did. No matter how small the act, it is celebrated! We want students to realize that collectively, seemingly small acts of mercy help to build a more compassionate and caring community.

Compassion and caring have long been attributes of the OLMC community and fostering these throughout the Pandemic has, at times, been challenging. The greatest challenges revolve around circumstances of quarantine. Please understand that the quarantine of those exposed to COVID is mandated by law (ARS 36-788 & 36-789) and implemented under the authority of Public Health. The current quarantine considerations are available here: Sick or Exposed to COVID-19. All schools (public/charter and private) are mandated, by law, to report 12 different communicable diseases and to follow the directives provided by Public Health. In the past, these reports were isolated and rare. For example, in my 15 years of school nursing, I have submitted two such reports--one for chicken pox and one for whooping cough.

When the COVID-19 pandemic escalated, Maricopa County Department of Public Health was overwhelmed with case reports. The enormity of the task of investigating positive cases can be understood when the number of daily positive cases is noted on the County Dashboard (MCDPH Data). To ease the burden on Public Health, “frontline” workers--school nurses--were trained to begin the contact tracing, isolation and quarantine where necessary, immediately after making a report instead of waiting for the Public Health Investigator to begin the investigation. It quickly became apparent that the backlog of cases was leading to increased transmission of infection when people that should have been quarantined were not. This strategy of infection control has served us well and is most effective when people who test positive for COVID report it to the school immediately. Ultimately, the school will be notified by the Health Department of a positive case in our community and a possible exposure, but that can be delayed. Throughout this Pandemic, we have been notified through “self-reporting” of positive cases, rather than from the Health Department, first. For this we should all be grateful. Self-reporting is an act of mercy which demonstrates a concern for others and one that will continue only if people feel safe in doing so. Our community is unlike others in that we understand that our “student learning expectations” are really expectations of the entire community.

We may not be able to control all aspects of what happens during the Pandemic, but we can always control the way that we choose to respond. The next time you become aware that someone is COVID positive, needs to be isolated or quarantined, why not take an example from our children and reach out with a small act of mercy. In the beautiful words of Pope Francis, “May the balm of mercy reach everyone, both believers and those far away, as a sign that the Kingdom of God is already present in our midst!” (Misericordiae Vultus #5). As the Lord is merciful to us, let us be merciful to one another!