Closing schools is one of the most powerful ways to slow down the spread of COVID-19 and protect people at higher risk from getting very sick or dying, according to a news release from the Tri-County Health Department.
The health department encourages parents and guardians to understand the situation and do their part to protect these people, too. Though kids are thought to be at lower risk for severe disease from COVID-19, they can easily spread it to others.
The department is most concerned about those older than 60 and people who have chronic medical conditions such as diabetes or heart, lung or kidney disease, the release said.
School closures are about keeping the whole community safe by removing as many disease pathways as possible, according to the release.
When school is closed, kids and adults should practice social distancing by staying 6 feet away from others as much as possible. Parents should not take sick children into any social setting, instead keeping them home and separate from others, the release said.
Parents of children and teens with chronic health issues and immune-compromising conditions should check with health care providers before participating in shared childcare arrangements or gatherings.
Residents older than 60 and those with a chronic medical condition, should avoid gatherings and caring for other people’s children. Small groups and big spaces lower the risk of disease spread.
Tri-County Health offers recommendations for indoor gatherings and sharing child care:
• Consider the size of the space vs. the size of the group. Aim to have the fewest number of children possible in the largest space available.
• Consider asking participating families to take their children’s temperature before gathering.
• Frequently clean high-touch surfaces like doorknobs, toys, and keyboards. Everyday cleaning products are effective against COVID-19.
• Practice social distancing measures. To increase distance between children, keep groups small, play games that involve fewer opportunities for touching, and remind them to cover coughs and sneezes and to wash their hands frequently and thoroughly. Parents and guardians also should practice social distancing and not participate if they are sick. For outdoor gatherings, group size should not exceed 50, and face-to-face contact must be limited. Any activities that involve direct or close contact must be avoided, and children should try to avoid sharing equipment. Parents and guardians should repeatedly clean and disinfect any shared sporting equipment, especially objects touched with hands, such as balls, bats, and playground equipment. Adults who join should practice social distancing and not participate if they are sick. For teenagers, aim for groups of 10 or less, and avoid spending time in larger groups and in crowded places such as parties, retail spaces and movie theaters. Low-contact, outdoor activities such as hiking and bike riding are great ways for small groups of teens to socialize.
During the time off from school, parents and caregivers are encouraged to teach their children to:
• Cover their mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing, then throw the tissue in the trash and wash their hands. Teach kids to use their inner elbow if a tissue is not available.
• Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol if soap and water are not available.
• Avoid touching eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands.
• Not share food, water bottles, utensils or cups.
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