• Tiffany Wallin

Should My Child Remain in School During the COVID-19 Outbreak?

Our community houses a high number of citizens vulnerable to COVID-19. Most of us have a difficult time linking the health of our children with the health of our parents, our grandparents, or our entire town. We have all sent our kids over to see the grandparents, the aunties and the uncles with colds and fevers before without much fear of reprisal. Obviously the consequences a cough, fever or runny nose have taken on a very new meaning. But will those same consequences be met by keeping your children in preschool?

If your local care facility is still open and providing services, then consider the potential outcomes. Preschools obviously cannot observe the same standard of maintaining social distancing, particularly when caring for infants. So the first potential outcome is an increased likelihood of a child getting sick, if not with COVID-19, then with more familiar illnesses like a common cold or flu which can get passed to vulnerable family members. However, should COVID-19 worm its way into a care facility, the entire facility will have to shut down for several weeks. With closure, children who have been exposed will have to return home anyway, parents will also have to remain home from work anyway and all families with exposed children will have to remain in quarantine for at least 2 weeks anyway and then hope that the public health authority has not issued an indefinite closure. Because, oh by the way, all the caregivers in the facility have been exposed and quarantined also.

Caregivers and care providers have been designated as essential across the country (despite other states ordering preschool closures). Kinder Care sites in Portland have been listed as critical care sites for medical personnel, first responders and their families. If your community has active cases of the 2019 corona virus, then it is likely that your local medical facility is unusually overcrowded and woefully under pressure. That being the case, those individuals who work in hospitals and medical offices (like so many of us) require child care in order to work. If your family does not house a member of the medical profession or emergency services, consider the outcome of keeping your child at home from school for 4 to 5 weeks. That provides an opening at your local care facility for a doctor, nurse, or care employee. Those essential workers can go to work and get to doing their best to flatten the curve. Since you and your child are at home, then you and your family are less likely to get sick, less likely to inundate the local medical facility and much more likely to help as part of the community effort to flatten the curve.

Obviously, there is the unspoken outcome of financial strain. If you are unable to work from home, then you are unable to provide for your family. The outcome of coming up short on bills, groceries, and overall well-being is very real and just as frightening. You and your family come first. If that entails maintaining your child's school attendance, then consider the outcome of good role modeling. Talk to your child about hand washing and demonstrate what a 30 second scrub session looks like EVERY TIME. Cough and sneeze into your elbows and into tissues and teach your child to do the same (and then wash your hands after that!). Aim for a month's supply of KLEENEX instead of toilet paper the next time you go on a weekly raid at the grocery store (you know who you are!!). If you have an infant, you may want to ask your care provider to try and supply caregivers with face masks when contacting, feeding and diapering your child. Try to understand that infant and toddler caregivers are especially vulnerable to spread because their little wards are unable to cover their faces. Be prepared then if your local infant care closes in the next few weeks. Most important of all, consider the outcome of working from home, of cancelling vacations and social outings, of remaining at home during your off hours and on weekends. Limit social contact for yourself and your children and for goodness sake, get your sunshine in your own yard rather than at the beach!!!

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