AH! Are we there yet?! It is so tempting to let down our guard with the return of in-person classes, stay-at-home orders being lifted, and the vaccine rollout underway, but we are not there yet. Insert Debbie Downer music. We know that COVID-19 variants of concern are increasing in our community. They can spread more quickly and it is possible they can cause more severe illness. We also have seen that public health measures work to lower COVID-19 case numbers, hospitalizations and deaths. Yes, we are worried about the emotional health of our kids and really want them to participate in social activities. Yet, it’s not the time to let down our guard and open the doors to our homes.
So how do we help our kids understand that supervised play at school is different than playdates? Here are a few differences to help guide your discussion:
1) IPAC measures…say what?
IPAC means Infection Prevention and Control. These include daily screening, cohorting, physical distancing, wearing masks, hand hygiene routines and frequent cleaning and disinfection protocols…to name a few. Our homes do not have these measures in place the same way they do at school. At least mine sure doesn’t!
2) Did I mention cohorting?
Play at school involves interacting with the same group of kids each day (a cohort). When one child tests positive for COVID-19, then contact tracing efforts begin. Public Health determines with whom the child has been in close contact for example, their class and household. When our list of contacts is consistent and small, Public Health can reach out to individuals quickly and people can start isolating immediately before they may unknowingly spread the virus in the community.
3) Close contact
The highest risk activities for catching COVID-19 are ones that involve close contact with others. Playdates expose your child not only to their friends but also to members of another household.
4) Location, location, location
Halton schools have done an incredible job limiting the spread of COVID-19 within school settings. This means the IPAC measures are working. Public Health has linked the spread of COVID-19 more to activities like private gatherings. We can help keep community transmission low by only having close contact with our own household members.
I know…this has been very tough. Understatement of the year. For now, it’s about giving our kids a sense of connection with their pals in other ways like video chats and phone calls. What new ways have your kids connected with their friends through the pandemic? Share with us. We’d love to hear from you. 🙂
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For parenting information or to speak with a Public Health Nurse (every Monday to Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.) simply call 311 or 905-825-6000
I hear what you are saying about play dates but I feel like it goes to address all the questions people have. If my kid has an outdoor play date with a friend from school (who is in their cohort) and wears a mask….how is that different then what happens at school?
Thanks for your comment Andrea. I think the main differences for parents to consider are:
• whether they would provide the same level of supervision and vigilance around maintaining all public health measures (masking, physical distancing, handwashing) as in a school setting.
• whether there might be interaction with other members of the family.
• whether a child may need to use the bathroom since entering their friend’s house increases exposure to other members of the household and its surfaces.