Can we talk about Covid testing and school for a minute? My eldest started back at school on the 3rd of September and Alex, my middle one, started back on the 14th. It is now the 24th and today I have had to pick them both up because Alex has a cough. The school gave us a home testing kit and when we got home I held my breath and swabbed the back of my three year olds throat, trying not to make him sick when the bud touched his tonsils. He gagged, eyes bulging and I nearly cried. It was not a pleasant experience for either of us.
Is it a cough or is it Covid?
This isn’t the first time I have had to pick the kids up from school early. Last Friday Leo was sent home with a cough and we had to go through the rigmarole of trying to book him a test at a drive through site. By logging back on to the GOV website at 8pm we were able to bag a slot at our nearest test centre, when I originally tried earlier that day the only places we could get an appointment were a two hour drive away. Leo went for the swab with his dad and then we began the anxious wait for his results. The school told us neither of the boys could go back until Leo’s test was negative.
The weekend was tense, stuck at home incase Leo had Covid but feeling 99% sure his new cough was just a reaction the my parents dog’s hair. We had been looking after the dog since Thursday and the cough appeared on Friday, he has also started coughing in the past around the dog so I was confident we were dealing with a mild allergic reaction here and not Covid-19. In my mind I was beginning to get quite stressed, the boys had only just got back to school and I was potentially looking at another fortnight of having them at home. The thought of staying indoors with them again when we were only just beginning to get a proper taste of freedom made me feel really depressed. Lockdown was long and hard on us all and I couldn’t cope with the thought we may have to go through it all again.
Sunday afternoon Leo’s results pinged in with a text saying all was good: it was negative. We rejoiced that Leo was well and I did a happy dance knowing I could send both the boys to school in the morning. Yay! Here we are again though, it is Thursday and they are both home again. Alex went in for a whole hour this morning before he was sent home with a cough and I had a call from school a couple of hours later saying I needed to collect Leo too. I didn’t hang around doing Alex’s test, that swab was making friends with his tonsils and exploring his nostril within 10 minutes of us being home and I sped it down to our closest priority post box within the hour. But now we have to wait again. There will be no school for them tomorrow and all we can do is keep our fingers crossed that the result comes in over the weekend so they can head back to school together on Monday, ready to start again.
I understand the need for testing, it is obviously important we keep Covid out of schools and stop the spread. I just don’t know if this is the best way to go about it. Who knows how many days of school my kids will miss just because they have a normal cough. Or because one of them is fine but their brother has a bit of a tickle? I am lucky that I work from home and I am in control of what times I work: being self employed during this pandemic has been an absolute godsend. I do not know how I would have coped today if I worked outside the home, trying to arrange childcare for a potentially Covid carrying child or having to tell my boss I needed to leave, knowing I will most likely be told I can’t come back in again until a negative test result is received. What are those families doing?
I can’t work out what would be for the best, it’s not my job to (thank f*** !) but I do know that keeping the kids home every time one of them is coughing will mean they will be home more than they will be at school. It is September, the first month back at school, a time notorious for kids sharing their germs and making each other poorly. There are going to be thousands of children getting poorly with coughs and colds this autumn because that is what always happens after the summer holiday. Always. Pandemic or no pandemic, kids get ill when they go back to school. Fact.
I don’t have the answers, all I know is that it is going to be a long old stretch to the Spring term if the kids are going to be sent home every other week. I also know that it doesn’t feel right subjecting my kids to these (for the most part) unnecessary Covid tests on the regular, it’s not nice for them at all. Perhaps we need more details about the ‘new continuous cough’: what does it sound like, what does ‘continuous’ even mean? I don’t know. All I do know is that this whole situation is stressful and is making establishing any kind of routine almost impossible. If the ‘new normal’ means weekly phone calls from school, stress trying to book tests or having to swab my own kids then I’m not here for it, wake me up when a newer and better normal is here please!
Update – I wrote this post a couple of weeks ago and I thought I would let you know Alex’s Covid test was negative (as predicted). Touch wood they have not been off school since but I fear it is only a matter of time.
Have your kids been sent home with suspected Covid? How are you finding back to school is going during this pandemic? Any ideas on how Covid testing school children could be changed so kids aren’t being sent home unnecessarily? I’d love to hear your thoughts.