“Dreading the 'Disneyland is closed' conversation with my 7-year-old when I pick her up today" is what my cousin posted on Facebook yesterday. With COVID-19 canceling events and shutting down theme parks, parents around the country and beyond are faced with breaking the news to their children that spring break might look a little different this year. For families staying close to home, that might be no big deal, but for others who had planned big trips, many are asking if they should cancel Spring Break plans because of Coronavirus. So I asked two doctors for advice.
“You’re not gonna like the answer,” Dr. Michael G. Schmidt, Professor of Microbiology and Immunology at Medical School of South Carolina tells Romper. “It really depends on whether or not your children, or yourself, have been exposed to someone who has been infected.”
COVID-19 spreads “between people who are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet) and through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes," according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). By keeping yourself and your kids closer to the nest and away from large groups of people — say on a holiday tour or at an amusement park — you’re actually protecting others and your family.
Which is to say that for Dr. Schmidt, the question isn’t really about canceling travel plans, it’s about considering your responsibility as a parent and a citizen.
“We have a two-week incubation period for this virus,” he says. “So now might not be the best time to visit grandma and grandpa who could be more vulnerable to coronavirus. It might be best to FaceTime them rather than appearing in person because you could be putting them in danger.”
Dr. Elizabeth Barnett, Professor of Pediatrics at Boston University School of Medicine, is equally cautious. “This is a very personal choice, but limiting exposure to others while traveling is very difficult,” she tells Romper. “Families should think very hard about the benefit of the trip compared with the risk of exposure to coronavirus, including what would happen if someone became seriously ill while away from home. Many families will decide that postponing a trip is the better choice, even though this will certainly be a disappointment. Many destination activities, such as going to Disney World, are no longer possible, which may also factor into family decisions.”
Dr. Schmidt knows these answers can be frustrating. That’s part of the problem both for medical professionals and the general public right now. “The angst everyone is feeling can be summed up in one word: uncertainty,” he says. “We’re learning about this virus day by day. The U.S. hasn’t been very aggressive in its testing of individuals, so we don’t know how significant community spread is.”
So what can you do? “The best thing to do might be to delay spring break plans until summer when we have a better understanding of who is getting infected and whether elderly relatives are at a greater risk or not,” Schmidt says.But, he adds, look on the bright side, this outbreak could provide a rare chance to spend more time with your children.
“Have a staycation. Enjoy your kids," he says. He jokes that one of the doctors in his department said that if everything gets shut down, he’s going to Home Depot to buy some paint to paint his kid’s room. Dr. Schmidt encourages other parents to do the same — finish that project you've been putting off, play with your kids at your local parks (away from other children), or ride bikes around the neighborhood.
“Go outside and play with your kids in your yard,” he says. ”Really spend time with your kids. This is a wake-up call that life is precious and we must savor every moment we can.”
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.