The CDC recommends face coverings for children 2 years and older
As difficult as it may be to make a toddler properly wear a face mask, the CDC recommends face coverings for kids 2 years and older. Masks should be worn in public spaces where it is challenging to practice social distancing and should cover their mouth and nose.
Children should practice everyday preventative behaviors just like adults
In addition to wearing face masks, the CDC says children should practice all the same preventative practices as adults. This means keeping a distance of 6 feet or more between kids and other people, despite how difficult that may be to enforce with younger children. Parents and caregivers should also try to disinfect high-touch surfaces in high-traffic areas every day, wash toys (including plush ones) when possible, and encourage thorough and frequent handwashing.
Outdoor activities are safer for children
It’s always beneficial to encourage children to spend time outside—that may be even more true during the pandemic. The CDC suggests infrequent playdates held outdoors still pose a medium risk of COVID-19, but it is preferable to indoor playdates with less ventilation where it’s also more difficult to ensure social distancing between kids.
Children should avoid visiting older family members if possible
It is well documented that older people are at higher risk of more severe cases of COVID-19 and health officials highly recommend that high-risk people limit contact with children. While this poses extra challenges for parents who rely on grandparents for childcare—and multigenerational households—the fact that children are more likely to be asymptomatic makes this guideline all the more vital.
Statewide school closures in spring 2020 were associated with decreased COVID-19 cases and deaths
The decision to close schools was a controversial one, but a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association on July 29, 2020, found over a period of 26 days, there could have been 424 more infections and 13 more deaths per 100,000 people had schools not decided to close. The study’s authors note that this connection does not prove cause and effect, but it does illustrate a connection between school closures and reduced case counts.
Schools may be safely reopened if community transmission is low
In countries that successfully slowed the spread and control of outbreaks—like South Korea, Finland, New Zealand, and Vietnam—school reopenings did not result in new outbreaks. This is because those countries have low levels of community transmission. The U.S., meanwhile, has comparatively much higher levels of community transmission.
Major outbreaks have been associated with school reopening in some countries
Some countries, however, did experience new outbreaks when schools reopened. Canada, Chile, France, and Israel reported outbreaks when children returned to schools. In the case of Israel, which reopened schools with few mitigating measures like distancing and masks, school-based cases were high enough to increase community transmission.
3.3 million seniors live in households with school-age children
About 6% of senior citizens live in homes with school-age children, exacerbating the already complex issue of safely reopening schools. While children have proven to be statistically less infected by COVID-19 and do not represent chief means of transmission in communities, there is the potential for a child to contract COVID-19 at school and transmit it at home to a family member.
Nearly 1.5 million teachers are vulnerable to serious illness if infected with COVID-19
While children are infected and hospitalized at significantly lower rates than adults, school reopening must still take into account the adults who work in the buildings. Of the teachers and other instructors in the U.S., one in four have a condition that puts them at elevated risk for serious illness should they contract COVID-19. That’s 1.47 million people who are potentially at risk by returning to schools to work.
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