While school buildings are closed, Johnson County school nurses man COVID-19 hotline

Nurses practice social distancing recommendations while answering questions about COVID-19 for Johnson County. Photo courtesy of Barbara Mitchell, Johnson County Department of Health and Environment Public Information Officer.

School might not be physically in session, but some Shawnee Mission School District nurses are tackling a different issue: COVID-19 questions.

Last week, Johnson County launched a coronavirus hotline to answer the general public’s questions about the pandemic. School nurses from across Johnson County stepped up to man the lines — which resulted from the years that the Johnson County Department of Health and Environment spent organizing quarterly meetings with all six nursing directors, SMSD Health Services Coordinator Shelby Rebeck said.

“We have always enjoyed just an excellent relationship with JCDHE and all the school nursing directors,” Rebeck said. “This was just a natural next step. When this crisis hit, all of the nursing directors were talking to each other saying, ‘what can we do, how can we help.’”

Rebeck said the nurses are answering a variety of questions including the following:

  • What are the signs and symptoms of COVID-19?
  • What do I do if I think I’ve been exposed?
  • Where can I get testing?
  • I’m a business owner, should I just shut down?

The nurses are answering these questions — and many more — at the discretion of JCDHE. Each morning, the nurses receive a script to answer the general public’s questions, Rebeck said. Sometimes the scripts change throughout the day: Rebeck said one morning the nurses weren’t able to give any specific direction regarding childcare until that afternoon, when JCDHE had a document in place for it.

Rebeck said the offer to participate was extended to all 48 of the district’s registered nurses. Not all are participating due to varying COVID-19 concerns or impacts, such as caring for young children at home or practicing social distancing depending on age or underlying conditions.

The Johnson County COVID-19 hotline is available Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., and can be reached at (913) 715-2819. The hotline is specifically designated for questions related to coronavirus.