Questions About the Current Coronavirus Crisis
We at the Pediatric Care Center (PCC) know these are stressful times, and many of you have questions about what’s on the horizon.
Why is this a crisis?
Experts have predicted that the coronavirus (COVID-19) could infect up to 70% of the world population in the next 12-18 months. This truly is unknown territory. There is much about this disease that we still are learning. But what we do know is this:
This is a new virus, so people don’t have immunity.
While for some, it causes a serious, even life-threatening illness, the majority will have mild or even no symptoms.
People can be contagious for a day or more before they develop any symptoms.
Each person with the virus is likely to infect at least two other people.
While the mortality rate is highest amongst the elderly, new CDC analysis of U.S. cases between February 12 and March 16 indicates that 38% of those hospitalized have been individuals between the ages of 20 and 54.
While the reported incidence of the virus is low in children, children can get the virus and transmit it to others. We now know they have also gotten severe disease, but not as frequently as older people.
Because of this, the virus can transmit exponentially through our community, often undetected, with dramatic consequences. You may have heard the term “flatten the curve” on the news or across social media over the last week. The stress this pandemic is putting on the healthcare system abroad should serve as a warning sign for what may lie ahead in the United States if we don’t act quickly. We at the PCC are committed to the care of our patients, those sick and well, and ask for your help to slow the spread of this disease by listening to the recommendations of your state and local health departments.
Do I need to cancel birthday parties?
Yes, you should cancel birthday parties of all sizes, even if they are within limits on gatherings of 10 or more people. We know it’s sad for the kids, but it’s a necessary and critical step for the health of our broader community. They will survive the disappointment. Think of other ways to make your child’s birthday special – have a family campout in the living room, do a late night movie marathon, eat pancakes for dinner, take a road trip to hike in the mountains for the day, whatever brings joy to your family.
Can we at least get together with friends for playdates?
No indoor playdates, full stop. We realize that one-on-one playdates don’t bump against the current government recommendation to avoid gatherings of 10 or more people. But taking the extra step of minimizing contacts with other families can go a long way towards slowing the transmission of this virus in our area. And that goes for family gatherings like neighborhood cookouts as well. A little extra caution here is worth it. All of us need to limit interactions with other people, even those who appear to be perfectly healthy as not all of those with the virus will show symptoms.
At this time, outdoor playdates can go forward, with precautions. Bicycling with a friend is a great way to get outside, while maintaining some distance. So is running laps in the neighborhood park or doing drills with a soccer ball – just make sure each kid uses their own ball. Avoid touching playground equipment, because the virus can live on surfaces for hours. The county has recommended bringing wipes to clean surfaces. Disinfect hands frequently if common surfaces are touched. Do not allow them to play contact sports.
So, what are my other options for the kids to maintain their social contacts?
You can help your younger kids use virtual tools to be with their friends. Try Netflix Party to get together virtually to watch movies with others or video services like Zoom to hang out with friends. Your older kids don’t need any help hanging out virtually. Verizon recently reported that video game playing online in peak hours has increased by 75% in just a week, and video streaming has increased by 12%. Remind your teenagers to go outside and get some exercise!
My teenager (or college student now unexpectedly home for the semester) insists upon heading out to hang out with friends. What should I do?
Social distancing applies to teenagers and young adults too, even if they think they’re invincible. We understand they want to get out of the house, particularly if they’ve been used to the independence of college living. Please explain to them it’s not about them -- it’s about their parents, their grandparents, and other people they care about. The fact that younger people have a lower likelihood of serious illness is irrelevant; as responsible members of the community, they need to limit their social contacts to ensure the health of the entire community.
Also, appeal to their own self-interest. Point out that if this health crisis lasts through the summer, it’s going to impact summer jobs in the service economy and more. Summer jobs in camps, restaurants, and retail will be limited (or non-existent). If they plan to attend recreational or sports camps, travel, or have an internship, these will likely also be severely impacted if this health crisis escalates further.
Teenagers and young adults in your household should take a look at the informative graphics recently published by the Washington Post illustrating the effectiveness of different measures. Dr. Fauci’s recent interview on Barstool Sports’ Pardon My Take does a great job of explaining the situation to young adults.
What should I be doing to keep my kids busy?
With students at home for an extended period of time, parents and caregivers may find themselves looking for additional options to keep everyone occupied. There are a wide variety of resources available that can help facilitate at-home learning and growing experiences.
First, check your school system's website for access to online learning tools and activities provided by the county/district. This will help give you an idea of the types of activities appropriate for your child and his/her grade level. If your child was sent home with hard copy resources, you can use those as a starting point for learning topics as well.
Next, check out the growing lists of ideas to keep your kids busy and suggestions being shared within the community and across the country. Many parents and educators are using their time at home to contribute advice to others on how best to manage the extra time outside of the classroom. There are also many teacher-created websites and blogs that provide free math games, literacy activities, and more. Look around and find something that works best for you and your family. If you want some new ideas for things to do with preschoolers, check out this resource. And for older kids, this is a great time to teach some basic life skills, like how to sew on a button, how to cook, and how to do their own laundry.
Last, ask your children what they would like to spend their time learning about. Find fun and creative ways to explore new topics, conduct experiments, or complete projects. While we can’t predict how long school closures will last, your children can continue to learn and grow throughout this time with your help.
How am I supposed to feed my family during this time?
It’s more important than ever for parents to help keep their kids healthy and strong with a balanced diet. Whenever possible, purchase pantry staples that are made of whole grains (like brown rice or whole wheat pasta) or high in protein and fiber (like beans or lentils). Frozen fruits and vegetables are easy to store and will come in handy in a pinch. Also, consider strategically picking long-lasting fruits and veggies that will stay fresh such as apples, oranges, carrots, cauliflower, butternut squash, kale, or brussels sprouts.
The sight of grocery stores with empty shelves has caused a lot of stress in communities around the country; however, at this time there are no indications that the food supply chain in this country is at risk. Make sure you only purchase what you or your family needs. As a community, we are all in this together, and that means leaving enough supplies and staples on the shelves for the elderly or those on nutrition assistance programs like WIC and SNAP. Often, people will go out and buy more than they need because it helps them feel in control of a scary situation. Instead, when you feel the urge to run back out to the store, try making a list of everything you have in the house, and then develop a meal plan for your family out of what is already available.
If you are unable to use a grocery delivery service, take extra precautions while going to the grocery store. Try to limit the number of trips you take outside of the home, and don’t bring the kids. If there are lines, maintain a safe distance apart from those in front and behind you. Bring a sanitizing wipe to clean the handle of your cart. If you touched your phone while out, be sure to clean it as soon as you are able. And, as always, wash your hands thoroughly the moment you return home.
As a parent, it is also important to take time for your own self-care to help maintain your own wellness and mental health. Take walks around the neighborhood and soak up whatever sunshine you can get in the weeks ahead. Wave to your neighbors from a safe distance and plant your spring garden.
Over the decades, the PCC and our families have worked our way through trying situations in the local community – 9/11, the DC sniper, major blizzards, power outages, and government shutdowns. The fun things you do with your children during this time will create memories they’ll have forever. And the actions we collectively take will help to preserve our wonderful community.