Duke pediatrician discusses effectiveness of screening students for COVID-19 prior to attending class

Following recent revised guidance from the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction that no longer requires school districts in the state to conduct COVID-19 screenings prior to student entry on campus, at least one district has already announced an adoption of the guidance.

On Monday, Mar. 29, Johnston County Public Schools announced via Twitter that they would discontinue screenings for staff beginning Apr. 5. Students will no longer be screened prior to entry effective Apr.12.

"We should focus more on trends over time," said Duke pediatrician Dr. Ibukun Kalu. "For the most part, kids don't necessarily present with fevers all the time when they have a COVID-19 infection. But if they're exposed or they have visible symptoms like cough or runny nose, abdominal pain, headaches that are persistent, I think it's important to let your school know and pull them out of in-person education until they can get tested."

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Dr. Kalu encourages school-aged children to get vaccinated once they have the opportunity to do so.

In an e-mail sent to Eyewitness News, a representative for the largest school district in the state, Wake County Public School System, said they are currently still conducting health screenings and looking at the revised guidance to determine how it would change our procedures.

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WCPSS said they would have more information to share after spring break.

Dr. Kalu, however, said the risk of spread is not exclusive to a specific school.

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"The risk is not just based on school," she said. "People thinking about travel, thinking of people also thinking about broadening their circles getting together with family members they may not have seen or friends they may not have seen in a year."

If more schools decide not to screen students, Dr. Kalu said ultimately all parties involved are doing the best they can, given the circumstances.

"It's so much burden being put on, put on all the players, including the kids," said Dr. Kalu. "I'm hoping we can get to a point where there's no blame associated with finding an infection. I think parents are doing what they can by signing the contractual agreements -- by tracking visible symptoms. Every so often people may miss the temperature check but that's okay."
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