Tea, tissues and a COVID-19 test. Staying home sick from school presents new challenges. (Jennifer Bardsley)

Tea, tissues and a COVID-19 test. Staying home sick from school presents new challenges. (Jennifer Bardsley)

A case of the sniffles isn’t what it used to be

When her daughter catches a cold, mom must navigate the flow chart from hell. It’s part of helping stop the spread of COVID-19.

When I was little, the only good thing about a head cold was staying home from school. There wasn’t anything on daytime TV that a kid would like, but I snuggled up on the couch and watched “As the World Turns” anyway. I’d return to school a couple of days later, do minimal make-up work, and that would be the end of it. Flash forward to now. The world has a turned a lot since then and sick days have become complicated.

A few weeks ago my daughter caught a cold. I let her stay home and dutifully called the middle school’s attendance line to report her absence. Someone from the school called me back 20 minutes later to find out more information. No, we hadn’t been around any COVID patients. Yes, she could still smell. No, she didn’t have a fever. Yes, she was vaccinated. Yes, we knew she needed a COVID test to return to school. Yes, she would email her teachers.

As soon as I got off there phone with the health room worker, I turned on my computer and canceled multiple things that were supposed to happen that week. No, I could not go to my exercise class. No, I could not meet a friend for lunch. No, my daughter could not have a sleepover. If it was non-essential, I canceled it. My husband and son still masked up and went to work and school, but my daughter and I stayed home.

At this point, you’d think the sick day would become fun. Instead of being stuck with daytime television, my daughter had access to Netflix after all. But she also had a school-issued Chromebook. Now that everyone knows how to do virtual school, her teachers expected her to keep us with assignments. The first couple of days she was too sick to do anything. On day three, when she began to feel better, she had three days worth of work to catch up on.

Once my daughter was on the road to recovery, she wanted to return to school and see her friends. I scheduled her a free COVID test at Walgreens and studied the Snohomish County Health Department’s Return to Work/School Flow Chart from October, which was like playing a really confusing game of Candy Land. My daughter’s test came back negative, but she still had a horrible cough. That meant more missed school and a weekend to recover. Finally, the following week, she headed off to school with a screen shot of her negative test and a bag of cough drops in her backpack.

Following the flow chart from hell was worth it because we want to do our part to help stop the spread of COVID. But it was also challenging, even for a parent like me who works from home.

These days, getting a cold is nothing to sneeze about. If you are sick, please stay home so that we can keep Washington state kids in school.

Jennifer Bardsley publishes books under her own name and the pseudonym Louise Cypress. Find her online on Instagram @jenniferbardsleyauthor, on Twitter @jennbardsley or on Facebook as Jennifer Bardsley Author. Email her at teachingmybabytoread@gmail.com.

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