By John R. Schirmer
Nashville School District officials continue to watch the number of coronavirus cases among students and staff, along with reports from the community.
There were no new positive tests among faculty Monday afternoon compared to Nov. 2, according to Superintendent Doug Graham. No teachers and staff are quarantined for close contact.
There are eight positive tests among students, Graham said, up from four a week ago. Fifty-three students are quarantined, down from 66 Nov. 2.
Some of those under quarantine are likely to return to school this week, Graham said.
Elementary school Principal Rick Rebsamen serves as the district’s point of contact with the Arkansas Department of Health. Rebsamen discussed the position at the Nov. 4 meeting of the Nashville Rotary Club.
“I’m the most hated guy in Nashville,” Rebsamen said. “They see my name on the phone and don’t want to talk to me.”
Covid-19 “has really taken off in our community in the last couple of weeks,” according to Rebsamen. Nashville is on a list of “hot spot” communities based on increasing numbers of cases. The numbers reflect Covid-19’s increasing cases in the community, not in the school itself.
The point of contact job “is 24 hours a day, seven days a week, from 6 a.m. until 10 or 11 p.m.,” Rebsamen said.
“I’ve worked quite a few cases. It comes in waves. The last couple of weeks have been busy.”
Rebsamen said his goal and the district’s goal “is to make sure school is as safe as possible” for students and employees. “When you get close contacts and positives out of the equation, the goal is to keep others safe. The main thing is to keep our babies safe at school.”
Rebsamen has first-hand knowledge of coronavirus. “In mid-June, I caught Covid, along with Bryce [Petty], [Joe] Kell, Mr. Graham, Bunch [Nichols]” and others.
“When you try to trace it, there’s no rhyme or reason. I don’t know why one gets sick and one is back the 11th day. If you get it, I hope you get through with less complications,” Rebsamen told the Rotarians.”
Rebsamen said the virus “was the worst sickness I’ve had. I had major fever for 13 days. Jan [his wife] got it, and she had fever a couple of days. It whipped me down pretty good.”
Seven Arkansas school district officials have been on ventilators. “All but one died. The one who survived is Joe Kell,” Nashville’s assistant superintendent.
Tests are available at doctors’ offices and the Howard County Health Unit. “There are plenty of places,” according to Rebsamen.
“We should really pay attention to it,” Rebsamen said of the virus. “We need to be vigilant. Watch for symptoms.”
The school district’s principals and Superintendent Graham work closely with Rebsamen in dealing with coronavirus cases and quarantines.
The process begins when Rebsamen receives a call from someone who says,
“I’m positive.” From there, Rebsamen said he tries “to calm them down. I tell them what to do to get through the sickness. I ask how long it’s been since symptoms started. The first thing I do is talk to the true positives, then call the building principal. We look at seating charts and interview students and teachers.”
Students who are quarantined work with blended learning until they return to on-site instruction, according to Rebsamen. “There shouldn’t be a drop off in curriculum for students or teachers.”
Rebsamen tells “close contacts when they can come back. True positives get a release from the state by call or other message. They get a call every day to ask how they are doing. If they’re ok, they’re released.”
Individuals who are asymptomatic “may get off on the 11th day. True positives are 14 days,” Rebsamen said. “If they’re really sick, they may be taken to the hospital.”
Rebsamen takes 20-25 calls per day, he said. “I volunteered for this job. I’ve been through it.”
Rebsamen said he reports to the state health and the Centers for Disease Control very day.
His advice to those who contract the virus? “Take Vitamin C, zinc, Vitamin D, aspirin. Check pulse oxygen. When you lose smell and taste, it’s because the virus took your zinc. Should you be scared of the virus? No. Should you respect it? Yes.”