As schools across the country shutter due to the COVID-19 outbreak, parents are scrambling to figure out care for their children (as well as entertainment). In times of snow days and hurricane threats, the knee jerk reaction is often to plan a playdate with a nearby neighbor, but there’s medical evidence to suggest that that might not be the best choice. So can you have playdates during the Coronavirus scare? Consider these doctors' opinions on the matter.
"Children are still at similar risk as the rest of the population in terms of becoming infected; so it is imperative to consider them as vectors of the virus, especially since they are less symptomatic and thus more ambulatory, and less prone to prudent hygiene habits,” Peter Jung, M.D., an Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at the University of Texas Medical School at Houston tells Romper.
"The key to slowing this pandemic down, as seen in Singapore and South Korea, is social distancing,” he adds. “The better we all practice this, the sooner we can gain a foothold on this pandemic. The general rule of thumb should be to limit all social interaction as much as possible."
Let’s repeat that: limit all social interaction as much as possible.
As physician Maha Mahdavinia told the Washington Post, “It’s a disaster, and children are in the mode of transferring it now.”
By encouraging children to play with a friend, they could unwittingly be spreading the virus. And just because your child isn’t showing symptoms doesn’t mean they don’t have it.
COVID-19 is marked by fever, cough, and shortness of breath. But as the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) reported, “we are seeing some people with mild illness, some who get very sick, and some who have died.”
Therefore, the AAP is asking parents to heed the following advice: Keep your kids away from others who are sick or keep them home if they are ill. (The only problem? With coronavirus, you might not know if someone is ill, and that's especially true of kids.)
"When the world is shutting down to prevent the spread of a pandemic disease that risks infecting 40-70% of the human race in the next 12 months, can other families still come over to play? My answer is a resounding 'nope.'" That’s what pediatrician Dr. Steve Silvestro posted on his website drstevesilestro.com.
"If your family of four has another family of four coming over for a playdate — and that family had another family of four over just yesterday — you’re not now exposed to only four people’s germs, you’re exposed to eight," Dr. Silvestro wrote. "Worse still, let’s say your kid’s friend’s mom went grocery shopping before coming over and stood in line with twenty people. Now your primary and secondary exposure is to twenty-eight people’s germs — a whole classroom."
Yes, it's incredibly difficult to be stuck in the house with a child or children who are bored out of their minds — but when you consider the drastic measures our society is taking to prevent this virus from spreading, a playdate just doesn't seem worth the risk.
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 our Romper’s parents + coronavirus coverage here on this page, and Bustle’s constantly updated, general “what to know about coronavirus” here.
Dr. Peter Jung, MD, Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at the University of Texas Medical