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Since schools are closed, many people are looking for advice about teens and social distancing from our perspective as pediatricians, moms, and public health specialists. This is an evolving situation and current recommendations are based on the best information that we have available as of March 19, 2020.
First and foremost, as a community, we all need to be on the same page when it comes to rules about social contact—especially with school out. There is no point in closing schools and then allowing our kids to hang out in big groups or not take basic precautions. If we want the school to resume, sports to resume, have prom and graduation, it is best to overreact as oppose to underreact, as we are learning from Italy and New York. Once testing for the virus is more widely available, we will have even better guidance.
COVID-19 is a respiratory virus that might cause no symptoms in some people, fever and cold-like symptoms in others, and more rarely problems with breathing that could result in need of supplemental oxygen or ventilation support. The more dangerous outcomes appear to occur in older people and in people with underlying medical conditions. Until testing becomes more widely available, we don’t know how prevalent this disease is in our community, or true complication or death rates. We do know that if you test positive for another virus like influenza, there is a lower chance that you also have COVID-19.
Testing has yielded multiple positive tests and there are multiple hospitalized patients. COVID-19 is in our communities.
We DO know that COVID-19 is very contagious—more contagious than the seasonal flu. It is spread person-to-person within 6 feet of contact with each other and through respiratory droplets. We are taking these extraordinary measures to contain the virus. We want to protect our more vulnerable populations and not overwhelm our health care system. We all know people in medically vulnerable populations, they are our parents, grandparents, and even classmates.
For more detailed information please go to: www.cdc.gov
As of today, current national and local recommendations for stemming the spread of coronavirus are:
So what does this mean for all of the students (including college) who are home and restless?Here are suggested practices to share with your kids:
Right now, the best way to stem spread is good hand washing hygiene and social distancing. Here are simple house rules for children who are old enough to understand that social distancing means ideally staying 6 feet apart from people around you.
We can promote the needed precautions without panic. Emphasize to your children that while no one is at zero risk for being sick from COVID-19 virus, their age cohort is low risk for getting very sick. Reassure them that we will all get through this, together, and that your job is to help keep them safe.
Teens wonder, “why should I not see my friends when it is unlikely that this disease will make me sick?” The idea of personal sacrifice to ensure that everyone stays healthy may be a new concept for them to consider. They can understand and can be motivated by the fact that their individual actions have the power to save lives.
Bottom line: if we all stick together and follow the same simple rules like good hand hygiene and social distancing, then we can stem the spread of COVID-19 quickly and get back doing to the things we love, like sports, travel, gatherings, and even school.
In Good Health,
Lynn Gettleman Chehab, MD, MPHPediatrician, NorthShore University HealthSystemChicagoland Children’s Health Alliance
Aimee S. Crow, MDPediatrician, NorthShore University HealthSystemChicagoland Children’s Health Alliance