How to plan activities with unvaccinated children in mind
After more than a year of virtual taekwondo lessons from his living room, 9-year-old Ben Hillenburg will be taking in-person lessons this summer at Warden Martial Arts.
Ben’s immunodeficiency complicates his other summer plans. He had a heart transplant at the age of 7 weeks due to dilated cardiomyopathy, a disease of the enlarged heart muscles.
“Usually we would send our kids to summer camp,” says her mother, Stacy Hillenburg, who is also the mother of 12 and 13 year olds. “But, because we don’t know what the summer camps are doing – if they have masks the kids obviously can’t be vaccinated yet, we don’t know how many other kids are getting vaccinated – they don’t. is not an option. now.”
Like many families with unvaccinated children, the Hillenburgs of Naperville are looking to enjoy the summer safely, as children ages 2 to 11 will not be vaccinated until September at the earliest. Among the pediatricians and infectious disease experts with whom we spoke, few agreed on “safe” activities since each family situation is different.
Children are less likely to contract COVID-19 and even less likely to die from it. But the numbers are not zero. With nearly 4 million confirmed cases, children represent 14.1% of COVID-19 cases and 0 to 0.21% of all COVID-19 deaths in the United States, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.
“If it turns out that your child is one of them who gets seriously ill with COVID and ends up in a CI or on a ventilator or dies, these numbers mean nothing to you,” says Dr. Mike Patrick , AAP spokesperson and an emergency pediatrician at Nationwide Children’s Hospital.
In Chicago, there are more than 30,000 confirmed cases of COVID among 0-17 year olds, representing about 11% of cases citywide, according to chicago.gov.
With a 2 and 5 year old, Dr. Taylor Heald-Sargent advises parents to talk to their friends’ families about what is safe for them. The infectious disease doctor at Lurie Children Hospital and assistant professor at Northwestern University also suggests that unvaccinated children keep their masks on and play outside.
When asked if children should refrain from cuddling when visiting their grandparents, Heald-Sargent replied, “The CDC has been clear: go hug your grandparents.
Asked the same question, Patrick paused.
“Boy, this is really difficult,” he said. “If a grandparent is vaccinated and the child is wearing a mask, it is safest to keep your distance and use a mask. On the other hand, it’s been over a year.
The surest defense against COVID-19 is the vaccine; the second best strategy is to wear a mask, according to Patrick.
“It’s always possible for a non-immune person to contract COVID from an immune person,” says Patrick, wearing a “Science: it’s like magic, but true” t-shirt. “It’s a low risk, but the risk is still there.”
Almost all summer activities involve risk. Here’s what the experts are saying:
Beach / pool day
For days at the beach or by the pool, Heald-Sargent has a rule: think about the crowds.
“If you think of the stereotypical 1980s movies where all the kids are jumping on top of each other – because you can’t wear a mask in the pool – it’s going to be reconciled with strangers and you won’t know it. their risks, ”says Heald-Sargent.
Whether it’s a day in the car or a month-long trip, wear masks and follow local guidelines when traveling, says Patrick.
The CDC recommends that people “delay travel until you are fully immunized.”
Playdates with unvaccinated children
Many have said to keep social circles small and to check with other families about their comfort level in case a neighborhood friend has a family member at high risk for COVID-19.
To eat in a restaurant
From igloos to heated tents last winter, alfresco dining has become popular during the pandemic. With global warming, families should capitalize on restaurants serving outdoors, according to Patrick and Heald-Sargent.
As for the camps, Heald-Sargent says they can be safe with the right preventative measures. However, mask-wearing policies are confusing with swimming, food, and drink, while social distancing can be difficult during campfires or when you’re stuck indoors during a storm.
“Kids shouting camp songs inside a closed barn isn’t great for controlling the virus – although it’s a lot of fun,” Heald-Sargent said with a smile.
The CDC recommends that unvaccinated campers avoid indoor or close-contact sports, and camp organizers limit “visitors, volunteers, and non-essential activities involving outside groups.” In general, they do not need to wear masks outdoors, according to the latest guidelines.
Although the Hillenburgs have reduced camp from their summer plans, play dates are allowed with other vaccinated children. Other summer activities remain under discussion.
“I think all summer activities that are outside of our circle will probably be outside,” says Joseph Hillenburg. “So maybe there is an outdoor festival or a farmer’s market …”
“Oh my god no,” Stacy Hillenburg said, laughing as she interrupted her. “What are you talking about? It’s too crowded!
Follow Chicago Parent on Instagram.