By Dr. Marquelle Dean and Dena Pepple, R.N. for Lee’s Summit Physicians Group
COVID-19, Grandmas and Schools. What do these three things have in common you ask? Besides questions about the disease COVID-19 itself, two of the most frequent questions we’ve been asked this summer about COVID-19 are: Should I let grandma (relative, friend, etc) near the baby? And should I send my kids to school?
These are certainly valid concerns, especially in our media overloaded world for parents who are trying to do what’s best for their children. The bad news is that there’s no absolute or “crystal ball” to tell us what will happen. The good news though, is that we do know the statistics on the children who do get COVID-19. We also know what to do to minimize the risk of contracting COVID-19 in the first place.
Dr. Angela Myers, Children’s Mercy Hospital Infectious Disease Specialist states, “recent data have shown that SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) transmission among children is low, children are not the main drivers of this disease.” As of 8/7/2020, Children’s Mercy Hospital (CMH) had tested 10,748 patients with 345 testing positive. This means that only about 3.4% of those tested were positive. According to a joint report from the Children’s Hospital Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics, as of July 30, 2020 about 8.8% of total confirmed COVID-19 patients are age 0-19 years. For those under 19 years who do test positive, symptoms are usually mild.
The risk of COVID-19 infection may never be zero, however there are some things we can do to slow or prevent the spread of this disease right now.
Preventing and Slowing the Spread
- Wash hands frequently for 20-30 seconds per washing
- Wear a mask at all times in public places if 2 years of age or older
- Social distancing – stay at least 6 feet apart
- Avoid anyone who is sick, has had a positive COVID-19 exposure or is positive with COVID-19
- 14 day quarantine – the incubation period for COVID-19 is up to 14 days, this can be a guideline for parents considering a visit from outsiders
Question 1: Can grandma visit the newborn or grands?
The answer here is a big fat MAYBE! Parents can ask themselves several questions… Does grandma follow the guidelines listed above? Is grandma’s and/or baby’s health at risk? (breathing issues, cancer, preemie, NICU, etc.) Does the parent NEED the grandma or other helper near? (parent health issues, older siblings, other parent deployed, etc.) Every situation is different, and you as the parent have every right and responsibility to protect your child.
Caitlin Rivers, PhD, epidemiologist at John Hopkins Center for Health Security states, “we are all going to have to start making these tough decisions based on our own risk tolerance and circumstance priorities.” Decide on your needs, priorities, and risks and you, the parent, ultimately decides.
If your answer is yes to grandma’s visit, everybody is happy… most of the time! (That was a joke!) But what if your answer is no? That is OKAY as well. Grandmas and others need to be respectful and supportive of your decision to protect your children. They may not like it, but in today’s world of technology, they can still get their grandma fix.
FaceTime, Skype, and Zoom calls can offer face to face and voice to voice contact. Grandparents and grandchildren can meet outdoors. Six feet apart may not put that baby in your arms, but it’s still a great view! For older grandkids, a social distance walk, parade, phone calls and writing letters are great options as well.
Dr. Angie Myers states, “It’s very important for kids to see their grandparents, but perhaps it is not the best time for hugs and kisses.” Air hugs and a little creativity can get us through this.
Question 2: Can Johnny go to school?
The simple answer is YES! According to recent recommendations by both the American Academy of Pediatrics and local infectious disease experts at Children’s Mercy Hospital, schools in Missouri and Kansas should reopen. Why? Because not being in school is riskier for most kids than the Coronavirus (COVID-19).
According to the CDC, the current evidence indicates that children and adolescents are less likely to be symptomatic and less likely to have severe disease from Coronavirus (COVID-19) infection. The AAP statement in support of school opening states, “Schools are fundamental to child and adolescent development and well-being and provide our children and adolescents with academic instruction, social and emotional skills, safety, reliable nutrition, physical/speech and mental health therapy, and opportunities or physical activity, among other benefits.”
There, of course, will be extra precautions required to make sure it is a safe and successful return to school.
Handwashing should be done often and for at least 20 seconds, this can help to remove any germs that could contribute to infection when kids touch their face, nose and mouth. We know the virus is primarily transmitted by respiratory droplets, but other than the air, our hands are a primary source of respiratory droplet contamination!
Desks should be spaced 6 feet apart, congestion in common spaces such as entryways and hallways should be minimized so kids can maintain a 6 foot distance as much as possible. Parents and visitors should be discouraged from entering the building to help accommodate the physical distancing measures.
Face masks are a safe and effective way to slow the spread of the virus. Schools should follow the CDC guidelines for face masks.
Cohort classes helps to minimize crossover among children and adults within the school. In addition, schools should be in close communication with state and/or local public health authorities and develop adaptive strategies to address the level of local viral transmission in their community.
The one constant with COVID-19/Grandmas/School is that we need to stay as updated as we can on this disease and make the best decisions for our children with that information. This can change daily depending on our family needs, research, and COVID-19 statistics. (Where is that “Crystal Ball” when you need it?!!) The CDC and Children’s Mercy Hospital are great resources for you.
At Community Choice Pediatrics (formerly Lee’s Summit Physicians Group, Raintree Pediatrics, and Blue Springs Pediatrics) are here to help too. This season will pass, but the more we can do now to promote healthy children, a healthy community and family peace, the easier this crisis will be on all of us.