Photo: Open to the community.
Prepared by Lisa Gibalerio, prevention specialist, Wayside Youth and Family Support Services
As towns and states pull back on the restrictions imposed to “flatten the curve,” and society tries to re-open businesses and resume “life as usual,” questions arise:
- What’s safe for our families to do now?
- Can my kids see their friends? get jobs?
- Can we eat in a restaurant? go to the beach?
The most important thing to realize as you venture out into the world is that the coronavirus has not been eliminated — COVID-19 is still around us, it is highly contagious, and it can be fatal.
Shifting From “Prevention” to “Minimizing Risk”
“Flattening the curve” was part of a strategy of prevention and containment: we kept our distance to avoid overcrowding hospitals. Now, as society moves to open up and we venture forth, our strategy needs to change accordingly — to minimizing risk.
How do we do that?
First, remember how COVID-19 spreads:
- Airborne transmission – particles spread from one person to others via coughing, sneezing, and talking, this is by far the most common means of transmission.
- Surface (“fomite”) transmission – particles spread from contaminated surfaces; this seems to be a much less significant source of transmission for COVID-19.
Core Guidelines to Keep in Mind
- COVID-19 spreads by airborne transmission in closed spaces, so….
Avoid closed spaces and crowds as much as possible, and instead meet others in open, well-aired spaces; outdoors is best.
- COVID-19 spreads via droplets in the air & stays airborne for long periods of time, so….
Use face masks and keep social distancing (6 feet minimum — 10 feet is better) even while outside, to keep out of the “particle cloud” created by others’ speaking and coughing; realize that sometimes you might pass through a cloud left minutes before, so protect yourself. Wash with soap and water after any interactions with others.
- COVID-19 is highly contagious and people can have the virus without showing symptoms for days — everyone is a potential carrier, so…
Recognize that this is not about you alone. The danger you personally face is only part of the equation. You are potentially dangerous to others around you. Think of yourself as a potential link in a chain of disease, and try to minimize your role in that chain.
Can the kids see friends, or visit our extended family?
- Check in with parents of your kids’ friends, and try to assess the potential risk they pose. Ask about their practices for the past 10 weeks, e.g., “Have you been physical distancing?” “Have you been working from home?” “Do you wear masks when outside the home?”
- Outdoors is the safest option; keep well spaced (at least 6 feet apart, even further is better).
- Wear a mask.
- Keep hand sanitizer close by.
- If a food event, bring your own food, and avoid sharing serving utensils.
- Discourage sleep-overs, indoor play dates, or any activities that involve extended periods together in closed spaces. There is much more risk.
- To allow for lower-risk play dates and teen gatherings: keep them outdoors, everyone use masks, and maintain distance.
Can my teens have a summer job?
There is no “one size fits all” answer. There are a variety of factors to consider, and the decision will still be a personal one within a given family. Consider:
- Does the job involve crowds?
- Is the place well ventilated?
- What is your teen’s tolerance for wearing a face mask?
- Is there anyone in your family who is high risk?
Where can my family go?
- Maybe. Call ahead. Only if outdoors, tables are well spaced, and staff are fully masked.
- Gather information: How many people will be there? Will masks be required? Can I bring my own food? Is there a plan for bathroom use?
- Maybe — off hours are best. Avoiding crowds is the goal.
- Maybe. Call ahead. Ask about the precautions that are in place:
- How many people will be in salon? Are chairs wiped down? Is mask wearing required for all? Skip the shampoo and blow dry – get in and get out.
- Only if you must. Be very cautious. Wear a mask. Sanitize before and after. Spread out.
Concluding Thoughts: Be intentional, thoughtful, and plan ahead.