COVID-19 is called a “novel” coronavirus because it is a new disease — one that has not been seen before. As more people have the virus, researchers continue to learn more about it. However, at this point there are a lot of things that experts don’t yet know for sure.
One area where scientists are still learning is about COVID-19 and kids. Less than 2% of the COVID-19 cases recorded worldwide have been among children.
Does this mean that kids don’t catch coronavirus, or is it just that they have fewer symptoms so it isn’t obvious that they have the virus?
Some researchers say that kids aren’t as likely to get the virus and they’re also not as likely to spread the virus. European studies finding this result are encouraging school openings in several European countries.
However, other researchers believe that kids haven’t been exposed to the virus as much as adults. Schools and churches have been closed, they figure, and kids aren’t out doing the grocery shopping.
Also, the second group claims, kids are less likely to have symptoms like adults and are therefore less likely to be tested. This group of experts thinks that the small number of children with COVID-19 reported may be misleading.
At present, we don’t know all there is to know about COVID-19 and kids, but we do know the actions to take.
Social distancing, if possible
We know at this point that children can catch coronavirus, and also that they can spread the disease, even if they don’t have symptoms. The Centers for Disease Control suggest that children as well as adults keep a 6-foot distance from others outside their household, if possible.
Kids may have a hard time understanding this idea. A fun way to learn about social distancing could be to look at pictures of alligators and llamas — two animals that are about six feet long when they are grown. Explain to kids that they should leave enough room for a llama between themselves and others. Some childcare centers are using hula hoops and pool noodles to help keep kids at a greater physical distance than comes naturally.
Kids should also avoid physical visits with people who are at greater risk of contacting a serious case of COVID-19, such as elderly people. People of all ages can catch COVID-19, but elderly people seem to be at more risk of getting seriously ill from the coronavirus. Other people who may be at higher risk include people with chronic diseases like diabetes, those with compromised immune systems, those who are obese, and those with heart or liver disease. Kids should visit these people through FaceTime, phone calls, or letters rather than seeing them in person.
Some families must have childcare for their children. The Centers for Disease Control have guidance for childcare centers. The guidance includes trying to keep the same kids and caregivers together, avoiding large groups, and being vigilant about keeping sick kids at home.
They also recommend the following practices.
Children under two should not use face masks or cloth face coverings of any kind, according to the CDC.
Kids two and older should use face masks if they must be out and about. The CDC has instructions to make adult face masks with cloth rectangles 6″ by 10″. Cut the cloth 5″ by 7″ for child size masks.
Kids and adults alike should wash hands as soon as they return home. You should also frequently clean and sanitize high-touch surfaces like doorknobs, kitchen counters, and light switches.
Kids can enjoy hand washing. Sing a song that lasts for at least 20 seconds, such as two verses of “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” or the special 20-second version of “Baby Shark.”
Try to help kids get out of the habit of touching their faces. This is hard for adults, so it will naturally be hard for kids, too. Be persistent.
Facts and information about the coronavirus pandemic are constantly changing. Visit the CDC site for the most up-to-date information during the COVID-19 outbreak.