Is it safe to send kids back to daycare when parents return to the office?

is it safe to send kids back to daycare
Photo via PatrickRich/Flickr (Public Domain)

The pandemic has truly been a challenging time for parents. Now that more than 157 million Americans have been vaccinated, places of work are starting to open back up and those with kids may need to seek alternative childcare solutions. For folks who are hoping to go back to the office, is it currently safe to send kids back to daycare?

The answer depends on a number of factors. 

The possibility of kids contracting the coronavirus should definitely be at the forefront of one’s decision-making. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), around 4 million kids have tested positive for COVID-19 since the beginning of the pandemic, with tens of thousands of hospitalizations and hundreds of deaths.

The consensus among experts so far is that COVID-19 very rarely results in serious illness among children. But the CDC still recommends exercising caution because kids, like adults, can be infected with the virus, can get sick from it, and in some cases, can even spread it to others while showing no symptoms. Additionally, babies less than 12 months old, as well as kids with underlying conditions, may be more likely to experience severe illness from COVID-19.

Another thing to consider is the ability of one’s kid to get vaccinated. The Pfizer vaccine has been authorized for adolescents 12 and above, and Moderna recently announced that it had submitted an application for FDA authorization for adolescent use.

Executives from both companies have said that people can expect vaccine efficacy results in younger children by fall. Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, recently told CNN that he believes that by early 2022, enough data will be available to allow for COVID vaccinations of “children of virtually any age.” 

For now, kids below 12 years of age still cannot get vaccinated, and until they can, mask-wearing is still the best line of defense in public and around other people. “We’ve already seen how the masks have helped prevent the spread of respiratory infections within schools, camps, and other community settings, particularly when everyone wears them, washes hands, and follows other infection-control guidance,” Yvonne Maldonado, chair of the AAP committee on infectious diseases, told the Washington Post

Choice of daycare is also important to determine if it’s safe to send kids back

Choice of daycare is also crucial. Make sure that the CDC’s guidance for childcare program operations during the pandemic is being followed, like masking indoors, physical distancing, regular hand-washing for kids and adults, and stringent disinfection practices—especially when it comes to sanitizing toys and stocking enough cleaning supplies.

Find a place that holds most of their activities outdoors to reduce coronavirus transmission. If possible, ensure that mealtimes are all situated outdoors for maximum safety, since masks can’t be worn by kids while eating. And of course, as much as possible, find a daycare that requires all of its staff members to be fully vaccinated.

It may be difficult to find a daycare that will fulfill all of every parent’s necessary requirements, so looking into a community’s coronavirus transmission rates might be beneficial to make compromises. If mealtimes are only held indoors, it may be acceptable if proper distancing is observed and there’s ample air circulation and ventilation in place.

At the end of the day, the decision to send kids back to daycare when parents return to the office will rely on a family’s particular situation, availability of resources, flexibility in schedule, level of comfort, and overall tolerance for risk. 

Sources: American Academy of Pediatrics, The Washington Post [1, 2], CDC [1, 2, 3], CNN

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