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Nationally certified school nurse on COVID-19 outlook as more U.S. schools reopen

Nationally Certified School Nurse Robin Cogan joins Yahoo Finance’s Kristin Myers to discuss the reopening of schools and how Trump’s COVID-19 diagnosis could impact the vaccine race.

Video Transcript

KRISTIN MYERS: The president did reveal that he has tested positive for coronavirus on Friday, and we've gotten conflicting reports about the president's health since. I want to mention here that in the 3:00 PM hour that the president's doctor will be updating the public on the president's condition, so you're going to want to stick with Yahoo Finance into the next hour for some more details on that. But what we do know so far is that he has been taking an experimental cocktail of drugs from Regeneron. As a reminder right now, shares of Regeneron up over 6 and 1/3 of a percentage point right now.

So let's chat about this and all things coronavirus with Robin Cogan. She's a Nationally Certified Nurse and a Faculty Member of the Nurse Certificate Program at the Rutgers-Camden School. So Robin, let's start with those drugs.

I mean, I had heard that they're typically reserved for patients that are in very critical, very severe conditions. Does this mean, when you heard that news that the president was taking this experimental treatment, that perhaps his condition was far more severe than we had thought or were led to believe? Or does this mean that perhaps, because he's the president, he can go out and take, you know, this very experimental treatment?

ROBIN COGAN: So interest-- first of all, thank you for having me. But interesting that the conversation prior was that politics does not necessarily influence the market. Politics has absolutely influenced coronavirus and how it has been handled, or mishandled, because we still don't have a national response, which is why eight months later we are in this circumstance.

From what I understand-- I am not a physician. I am a school nurse, and this impacts our students, this impacts our school communities. But from what I understand, this antibody cocktail is in a four late-stage clinical trial, and its safety and efficacy has still not been fully evaluated by any regulatory authority, which brings me back to how politics is impacting how coronavirus is dealt with in this country.

And I understand on Friday, "The New York Times" reported that the Regeneron's chief executive, who happens to be a member of Trump's golf club in Westchester County, New York, said that Trump's medical team had contacted him for permission to use the drug and that the FDA had cleared it. So you know, average Americans don't have the same, let's say, treatment. And I understand he's the president of the United States, but it's clear that politics is impacting science. And that's the really scary part. Politics, rather than science, has-- has driven this train, and we are at a crossroads like I've never seen.

KRISTIN MYERS: So I'm really glad that you mentioned that, and I do want to get to the school reopenings in a moment. But I'm glad that you mentioned politics and its involvement in just the story about coronavirus, about the treatments, about do we-- do we trust the doctors and the scientists that we're hearing? Do we not? Do you think that average Americans have been put at risk, given the confusing narratives that we have heard from politicians, from mayors, from governors, from Dr. Fauci, from other medical professionals, from public health officials? Do you think that American lives have been put at risk because of that?

ROBIN COGAN: Well, as a school nurse working really hard to try to keep my students and staff safe in an environment that of constantly changing guidelines, what the CDC giveth, the CDC taketh away, and it's really just-- it's really disturbing, and it's absolutely driven by the influence from the White House.

Just what happened over the last 48 hours really, it just describes everything that's wrong with our system. I mean, the fact that the president could leave his isolation room, you know, really put other people at tremendous risk so that he could do a COVID parade to-- to, you know, address his followers was shocking to me and depressing, actually, because now all of these people are going to have to quarantine, especially those closest to him, those people who care for him. Where-- there is disregard for everybody else's health. That's the scary part.

And so yes, I do think the chance-- the decisions that have been made have impacted our country, our children, our ability to open school. I mean, here we are-- when we left school last March, we were told pack up for two weeks. We'll be back March 30. It is Sept-- it is October, what's today, the fifth or the sixth?

KRISTIN MYERS: It's the fifth.

ROBIN COGAN: We're not back yet. We're not back yet. Some schools are. Some schools are. But they're opening and they're closing. And do you know that we don't have a national database to even track that?

You know, schools have been a Petri dish for this country. And it's been really unfair to put children and staff at risk when things like bars are opening and all of these social things are opening. We needed to open schools first and make sure everyone's safe, and then open the other things.

But the true problem is we don't have a national response. We don't have national agreement. I mean, even after Donald Trump tests positive, the first lady, so many people in his circle test positive, do you know that they're still not mandating mask wearing in the White House inside during those meetings?

KRISTIN MYERS: So Robin, on the topic of school reopenings, here in New York City, we're seeing Mayor Bill-- Mayor de Blasio-- I can't talk today. Mayor de Blasio essentially shutting down businesses and schools in certain zip codes. We are now seeing Governor Cuomo overriding that decision from the mayor.

I heard what you were saying that schools need to reopen first before we reopen restaurants, and bars, and other social activities. Do you think that that is the right call to make? If we are closing schools down, does it need to be on a zip code basis, a hyper local basis, to stop the spread in one community, while perhaps reopening in other areas of a county or a city?

ROBIN COGAN: I think the saddest part of all of this is that we never had a national response like every other country who have not had the level of death, and destruction, and debilitation that we've had in this country. It's unconscionable that we're here. We don't have a national testing strategy. We don't have a national contact tracing strategy.

Do you know I'm in New Jersey, I don't want to give the wrong number, but I believe we have 584 school districts. Every single district had to give their own contact tracing guidelines and their own reopening plan. Now, I get that it's never a one-size-fits-all, but there's certain things that should have been standard across this country. Number one, can we agree to protect each other and wear a mask? We wouldn't be in this situation if we could.

And the other thing I wanted to say-- and I know we're running out of time-- but you know what, if this is-- if this coronavirus is actually transmitted through airborne, you know, we're in a whole different ball game, and they're not making it clear. It's a very different transmission if it's droplets or airborne. And we need to get that clear. We need to look at what we're doing in school. Maybe everyone needs a medical-grade mask then.

KRISTIN MYERS: All right, well, we will have to leave that there. Nurse Robin Cogan, Faculty Member of the Nurse Certificate Program at the Rutgers-Camden School. Thanks so much for joining us.

ROBIN COGAN: Thank you.