A COVID-19 vaccine, on which some sense of normalcy is contingent, is not yet at hand. What is here and now is life that needs to go on. This reality hit home as those who needed to go to work and to school had to just go out there — out where no one is certain if it is safe.
But "going out there" must be done “while taking every precaution to protect students, teachers, staff, and all their families,” as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has urged regarding schools. And the approach must begin with a mitigation strategy that is adaptable, scalable, and innovative.
To reduce or prevent the local transmission of COVID-19, community mitigation exempts no one. Workplaces, churches, commercial spaces, and schools most especially need to implement mitigation strategies beyond masks and social distancing. Systems must be in place to meet the unique needs and situations of the at-risk populations.
The CDC has outlined monitoring and evaluation mitigation strategies for both K-12 schools and institutions of higher education. CDC's considerations for operating schools during COVID-19 are intended “to aid school administrators as they consider how to protect the health, safety, and well-being of students, teachers, staff, their families, and communities.”
These mitigation strategies in schools depend on collaboration with state and local health officials to ensure that they are implementable, feasible, practical, acceptable, and tailored to the specific needs and circumstances of each community. The CDC has provided the Monitoring and Evaluation Checklist for K-12 Schools and guidelines for Institutions of Higher Education that include sample “evaluation questions, indicators, and data sources to develop a monitoring and evaluation protocol and determine a scope feasible for their situation.”
According to the CDC, “it is also critically important to develop strategies that can be revised and adapted depending on the level of viral transmission in the school and throughout the community and done with close communication with state and/or local public health authorities and recognizing the differences between school districts, including urban, suburban, and rural districts.”
Monitoring is the crux of the mitigation strategy, but engagement is key. Making that engagement as natural and normal as possible during the most abnormal of times is the challenge. Where you engage individuals — the communication platform — matters as much as how it is done.
For university students, engage them in a place from which they are inseparable — their phones. Whether through text, voice, email, app, or wearables, engage college students for their health and safety while integrating symptom tracking and contact-tracing. The seamless exchange possible on a cell phone makes simple all delivery of practical information as well as any monitoring and evaluation that can facilitate timely decisions and care management.
That is what LifeWIRE’s COVID-19 Self-Isolation and Quarantine Management Program (COVID-19 SIP) is designed for: rapid and scalable population outreach for daily symptom tracking, self‐isolation management, and access coordination. It's a digital approach to implement mitigation strategies, not just for public health and workplaces but for schools.
LifeWIRE’s secure cloud-based communication platform personalizes engagement in an automated dialogue according to the protocols set by the state health department, school administrators, or the federal agency’s health assessment, such as that of the CDC. It can provide contact-tracing support as it reaches out to and engages the student population for real-time monitoring, self-care management, and patient education.
COVID-19 SIP has an optional functionality to assess mental health symptoms and provide peer support. This solution meets the needs of a student population that is already at risk for mental health issues and therefore more vulnerable during the pandemic.
A recent survey conducted with 195 students at a large U.S. public university to understand the effects of the pandemic on their mental health and well-being concluded that there is an “urgent need to develop interventions and preventive strategies to address the mental health of college students.”
In Operating Schools During COVID-19: CDC's Considerations, the CDC underscores how schools should also provide the critical services that will support a safe learning environment for students, employ teachers and other staff, and enable parents, guardians, and caregivers to work.
Schools have reopened and are now back in the business of preparing the future of one of America’s greatest assets — our children. This vital business of future-building, in an unprecedented time such as now, must take on the responsibility of communicating care wherever, whenever, and however possible. #BeLifeWIREd