We at Partners In Pediatrics hear these questions every day:
“When can we finally get back to sports/school/work/parks/seeing Grandma or our friends?”
“Are kids really at such a high risk – of illness? Of spreading COVID-19?” And so on . . .
As your pediatric care team, we at Partners In Pediatrics have been honored to join you on your journey as a family. Throughout these past many weeks, we have been listening to you. Some families have experienced incredible stress from loss of income, struggles to keep kids on track as parents wear the many hats of being parent/teacher/soother/mediator/gym teacher/cook & work full time to keep their own jobs.
Others have been surprised to see their kids rested, relaxed and learning independently, without the pressures of bullying or being over-scheduled. Sadly, we also know some who have lost a parent, grandparent, or loved one to COVID-19. This illness is very real – and we expect to see more of it in the weeks & months to come.
Our communities are beginning to open up now. What does that mean for our families?
This is as good a time as any to take a deep breath and share our views. First, remember this Coronavirus is a “novel” or new virus – and we will continue to learn more about the spread, treatment options and related illness effects, for many months to come. The advice and guidance has changed, and likely will change, as we learn more about COVID-19. We do not know everything we wish we could know at this time. But based on what we know today, in May of 2020, here’s what we can share in response to the questions we’ve received:
“Does ‘social distancing’ really need to continue?”
YES! It really did help slow the spread of COVID-19 to a level that hospitals were able to manage. Social distancing and slowing the spread gave our hospitals, our first responders, even clinics like Partners In Pediatrics time to get the protective equipment we need to stay healthy and be there for our community when they need our care.
“Is COVID-19 really that contagious?”
YES – not as contagious as measles, but at least as contagious as the flu, especially because unlike flu, a significant proportion (up to 40% in some studies) may be without symptoms and so they are spreading it to others without any awareness on their part. This makes them potentially even more contagious than people who feel ill. It also means asking only folks who have ill symptoms to wear a mask, stay home from school/work, just won’t work. Even those who will become ill with COVID symptoms are thought to be contagious 24 hours before they feel it coming on. So that’s why we say “Wear those masks!” – not so much to protect you, but to protect others around you from you in case you are carrying the virus; please remind your older kids/teens about this reason for masks. We are hearing that some think wearing a mask makes them “look weak/scared”, but what a mask really demonstrates is that you respect and value the health of other people in your community.
“Shouldn’t schools reopen?”
There is no doubt that schools provide a life line for kids; they are places for academic growth, special needs instruction, meals, friendships and celebrations.
Many parents need to get back to work. On the other hand, we also need to consider the health of teachers, parents, and medically fragile folks who may come in contact with a child spreading COVID-19. The CDC has released guidelines to help our schools make these difficult decisions. We think we may see a “hybrid” type of school this coming year (alternating days, smaller class sizes, remote learning along with stronger emphasis on hand-washing, hygiene, and a LOT of monitoring for fever, ill symptoms, hopefully better access to rapid COVID-19 testing in those cases).
(NOTE: If you think you or your family members have COVID-19 symptoms, Colorado now finally has more testing available. Contact us to arrange a Telehealth appointment to discuss that option.)
We absolutely respect the science of tracking cases of COVID we have in our communities. As the cases increase, schools may need to intermittently close this fall and winter. Families will need to be prepared for those times. Some families may elect to continue to home school, as many families have been doing for years.
“When will life get back to normal?” “How do we live a normal life again?”
This novel coronavirus will be spreading around the world until
- we have a cure,
- most people have already had the illness (“herd immunity”)
- we have an effective, safe vaccine available to most of our population
In reality, it may well be a combination of those events. We think that “normal” may be many months, perhaps even a year or more from now.
So it really comes down to “risk and reason.”
You are the parents. You balance “risk and reason” every day you drive a car, ride a bike, or leave your child at school/camp/with a sitter. But in this case, there is also the risk to others in your family & community to consider. Continue to arm yourself with accurate information as we learn more about COVID-19. Try to steer clear of sources that politicize this matter. We at PIP can help. Armed with the facts, you can decide what risk you are willing to take to help your family. You can be the calm voice of support and reason.
Please keep setting good examples – wear your mask to help protect others. Instead of indoor parties, plan smaller outdoor opportunities to get together. If you really want to see grandparents, self-quarantine ahead of time, do “air hugs” or elbow bumps, wear masks, and for older grandkids you can socially distance and be super careful – if it’s that important to be together at this time (that’s your decision), then make it happen, but do it as safely as you can!
Keep up those great hand-washing habits, too! You will see a healthier family this fall and winter.
The “new normal” will be with us for a while but we at PIP will navigate it along with you. We are listening – keep those questions coming!