As summer gets underway with COVID-19 still very much present in our communities, many parents are asking whether it’s safe for their children to participate in camps, afternoons at the pool, and other neighborhood activities they have enjoyed in past years. Penn Medicine Lancaster General Health Chief Clinical Officer Dr. Michael Ripchinski says in making these decisions, it’s important to follow social distancing, hand washing, and masking guidance from the CDC, state, and local advisories.
Play Dates and Gatherings with Friends
After several months of hunkering down at home—connecting with friends only virtually—kids of all ages are eager to get together in person. Parents question if it’s safe to arrange play dates for their younger kids and allow tweens and teens to gather.
Unfortunately, this is not recommended while there is ongoing community spread of COVID-19.
The CDC reinforces the fact that if children meet in groups, it can put everyone at risk. It’s nearly impossible to keep active toddlers six feet apart and avoid touching each other, toys and equipment.
While their own risk for contracting COVID-19 may be relatively low, children can pass the virus to others who may be at higher risk, including older adults and people with underlying medical conditions.
You may want to consider allowing older children you trust to gather outdoors with one or two others for a hike or walk, while wearing face coverings and practicing social distancing.
Do encourage children living in your household to play together outside to get exercise, fresh air, and burn off energy. Be vigilant if visiting parks or playgrounds with common areas.
For summer camps that open this year, the experience will and must look very different. When weighing decisions about sending your children to camp, research whether the camp you are considering is adhering to guidelines established by the CDC, the American Camp Association and the YMCA. These organizations have recommended extensive cleaning protocols, smaller group activities, hand-washing, social distancing, staggered meals and arrival/pick-up times, and other safety measures to protect kids during the pandemic.
It is also important for parents to be mindful of state and CDC safety guidelines for childcare facilities.
Swimming Pools and Water Parks
Swimming and other water-related activities are great ways for kids to get the physical activity and have fun. According to the CDC, there is no evidence that COVID-19 can be spread to people through the water in pools, hot tubs, or water playgrounds.
Additionally, proper operation of aquatic venues and disinfection of the water (with chlorine or bromine) should inactivate the virus. Learn in advance, if the venues you plan to visit are taking steps to ensure health and safety, and are following considerations set forth by the CDC.
It is important that children and adults continue to protect themselves and others, both in and out of the water. This includes staying at least 6 feet away from people you don’t live with, and wearing face coverings when out of the water.
Try to visit parks and swimming areas close to home. Traveling long distances may contribute to the spread of the coronavirus as you make stops along the way.
Stop the Spread of COVID-19
Lead by example wherever you are and whatever you do this summer. Teach your children to stay healthy and stop the spread of the coronavirus:
- Clean hands often and thoroughly using soap and water or alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
- Maintain 6 feet of distance (about two arms’ lengths) between your children and other people outside of your home.
- Like adults, children 2 years and older should wear a cloth facing covering over their nose and mouth when in public settings where it’s difficult to practice social distancing.
- Clean and disinfect high-touch surfaces in your home frequently. This includes tables, hard-backed chairs, doorknobs, light switches, remotes, handles, desks, toilets, and sinks).
- Launder items, including washable plush toys as needed, using the warmest appropriate water setting.
Although this summer will be very different than any before, you can still have fun with your family while staying safe.