The New York Times reports today on the shameful shortage of school nurses. Students are returning to schools even when there are no trained health professionals there. The previous post described the response to the pandemic a century ago. At least in the cities, every school had a nurse and some had doctors. That was the Progressive Era. This is the Regressive Era, where schools are expected to reopen without any of the resources recommended by the CDC and other health organizations.

School nurses were already in short supply in the United States, with less than 40 percent of schools employing one full-time before the pandemic. Now those overburdened health care specialists are finding themselves on the front lines of a risky, high-stakes experiment in protecting public health as districts reopen their doors amid spiking caseloads in many parts of the country.

The American Association of Pediatrics recommends that every school have a nurse on site. But before the outbreak, according to the National Association of School Nurses, a quarter of American schools did not have one at all. And there has been no national effort to provide districts with new resources for hiring them, although some states have tapped federal relief funds.

Washington State is one of the places where nurses are a rarity in school hallways, with only 7 percent of schools employing one full-time, and nearly 30 percent of districts having one available for six hours or less per week. As the lone nurse for her school district in central Washington State, Janna Benzel will monitor 1,800 students for virus symptoms when classrooms open later this month, on top of her normal responsibilities like managing allergies, distributing medications and writing hundreds of immunization plans.