Navigating the COVID-19 pandemic has been confusing for everyone, to say the least. Everyone has so many questions about what to do and how to go about their everyday lives. This is especially true for parents whose kids are now home all day, every day due to schools being closed around the country. But while elementary school kids are home, should parents also take their child out of day care for their safety?
Some parents might be able to stay home to take care of their kids (and basically become a teacher overnight). Unfortunately, this has become something of a luxury, as many parents don't have that option — they need to continue to go to work, whether they work in the health care field or another essential position, or they simply can't afford to take time off (or potentially lose their job).
Even parents who are working from home might want to continue sending their kids to day care. This can give their kids something to do, it's an outlet for fun, and it allows parents to get things done around the house. But is it safe?
The CDC has strongly recommended and encouraged social distancing as much as possible for everyone, children and babies included. In an email interview with Romper, Dr. Florencia Segura of Einstein Pediatrics says, "At this point, if your state has mandated your local schools to close, we do not recommend sending kids and babies to day care as part of social distancing."
If you're thinking, "but I thought children weren't as affected by COVID-19 as adults are?" you're not alone. However, while they might not experience the same severity as adults do, children are still very much affected. Segura explains, "Children are infected at rates similar to adults, and children are also contributing to community spread. In fact, it has been shown that 4% of children are asymptomatic, and asymptomatic shedding is what worsens an epidemic within a community."
In other words: Your child could go to day care, be in contact with someone with COVID-19, and carry the virus home without anyone ever realizing it.
Segura references a paper in the journal Pediatrics from March 2020 that reinforces the fact that children are spreading the virus. To make it more confusing, they're either not showing symptoms, or they're showing different symptoms than adults, like a runny nose and diarrhea. "Prolonged shedding of the virus in nasal secretions and stool is what makes children more infectious and a big player in community spread in day care centers and schools and eventually in their own homes," she says.
Keeping your kids out of day care isn't just for their safety — it's for yours, too. While no one wants their child to get infected with COVID-19, there is extensive evidence that shows that it's not as serious for them as it is for older adults. "We have reassuring data from a recently published study that over 90% of all pediatric patients were either asymptomatic (4%), mild (51%), or moderate (39%) cases," says Segura. "These children's most common symptoms were fever, fatigue, sore throat, cough, nasal congestion, and sometimes nausea and diarrhea."
But that same study did find that 6% of the 2,143 kids who were diagnosed with COVID-19 developed complications from the virus, Segura points out, and a 14-year-old teenager has died.
The bottom line? Unless it's absolutely necessary to send your child to day care, you may want to pull them out and keep them home and away from anyone else. This seems to be the safest thing to do in this uncertain time.
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.
Dr. Florencia Segura, M.D., FAAP, of Einstein Pediatrics
Yuanyuan D, Xi M, Yabin H, Xin Q, Fang J, Zhongyi J, Shilu T. (2020) Epidemiological Characteristics of 2143 Pediatric Patients With 2019 Coronavirus Disease in China. Pediatrics, https://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/pediatrics/early/2020/03/16/peds.2020-0702.full.pdf.