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Can Kids Play Together If They Wear Face Masks? Experts Weigh In

I’m really missing the days of hanging out with my friends and their kids watching all our children play together. I was looking forward to that this summer now that my son is a little older and can run around, but coronavirus has obviously changed things. With certain precautions being put in place, is it safe to assume kids can play together if they wear face masks? I know wearing masks is supposed to help keep others safe when we go to the grocery store and to pick up takeout food, but are the masks helpful enough for our children to wear so they can play with their friends?

Dr. Leann Poston, pediatrician, tells Romper that if you’re having to ask, “Is it safe?” then the answer is no, and that honestly, “nothing is safe” right now. Echoing Poston, Dr. Daniel Ganjian, pediatrician at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, California, says, “Play dates are still not advised since kids are not great at keeping their masks on the entire time. They take it off to scratch an itch, get more air, or to eat and drink.” Not to mention that masks only help when maintaining proper social distancing, he says.

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The way wearing a mask works is that they prevent asymptomatic people who are carriers of the virus from spreading it to others, per the CDC. They’re supposed to help slow the spread of the virus when used during social distancing — which means staying at least 6 feet apart. It’s highly recommended that masks are worn in public settings and in “areas of significant community-based transmission,” the CDC noted. This includes grocery stores, pharmacies, and other stores and areas.

“The biggest reason that social distancing includes young children is to stop the spread of COVID from family to family,” Poston says. “Young children will not be able to maintain a 6-foot distance from each other, wear a mask, not touch their face, and not share respiratory secretions. This is why there is a concern about opening day cares, even though parents need access to day cares in order to work.” Plus, children under the age of 2 cannot wear masks because it’s a “suffocation risk,” says Ganjian. So that blows my hope anyway since my son turns 2 in May and will have to have a quarantine birthday “party.”

Ganjian says that once infection rates decrease, playdates can resume — however, this will all depend on your location. This goes for other summer activities like summer camps, summer school, pools, etc. Where Ganjian lives, they’re still seeing high rates of infection, so these things will “likely not open” in Los Angeles. “But again, it all depends on your locale, so stay in touch with your public health department,” he says.

For now, playdates — even while wearing a mask — are not safe to do per health experts and the CDC. Stay in touch with your local public health department to stay up-to-date on when these recommendations and precautions will be lifted in your area.

Experts:

Physician and educator Leann Poston M.D., M.B.A., M.Ed. of Invigor Medical

Dr. Daniel Ganjian, pediatrician at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, California

If you think you’re showing symptoms of coronavirus, which include fever, shortness of breath, and cough, call your doctor before going to get tested. If you’re anxious about the virus’s spread in your community, visit the CDC for up-to-date information and resources, or seek out mental health support. You can find all of Romper’s parents + coronavirus coverage here, and Bustle’s constantly updated, general “what to know about coronavirus” here.