The Week (US)

Kids and Covid: What is safe?

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As vaccinated Americans return to normal life this summer, “one group will be left out,” said Claire Cain Miller in The New York Times: kids under 12. They can’t be vaccinated yet, and it’s left anxious parents confused about what their children can safely do. More than 800 epidemiolo­gists and pediatric infectious disease specialist­s we surveyed had varying views, but a majority agreed that unvaccinat­ed young kids from different families should avoid congregati­ng indoors— though some said they’d allow it among a limited number of families, “like in a pod.” But only with masks. Three-quarters of experts agreed that “when it comes to indoor activities where masks cannot be worn at all times, children probably can’t do them safely this summer.”

Outdoors is a different story, said Robbie Whelan in The Wall Street Journal. Last week the CDC relaxed summer-camp guidelines calling for masks during outdoor play, and many experts “now believe that nearly any outdoor activity” is safe even without masks. But the American Academy of Pediatrics still recommends that unvaccinat­ed children mask up outdoors if in groups, and some experts agree, noting that “transmissi­on is still possible if someone gets too close.”

There’s reason to be vigilant, said Leana Wen in The Washington Post. With adult cases dropping because of vaccinatio­n, pediatric infections have risen to 24 percent of new weekly cases. Nearly 49,000 kids were infected in the second week of May. Yes, kids are “unlikely to become severely ill,” but more than 3.9 million have tested positive over the past year, and at least 300 have died and 16,000 have been hospitaliz­ed.

Still, as a internist, I tell families to ditch the outdoor masks, said Lucy McBride in TheAtlanti­c .com. Outdoor transmissi­on is “extremely rare,” and as overall case rates plummet, kids’ risk goes way down. In Israel, where more than 60 percent of adults are fully vaccinated, pediatric cases have dropped 99 percent since January. For isolated kids, “the social and emotional benefits” of being able to play maskless outdoors “greatly outweigh” the risks. “What does all this mean?” asked S.E. Cupp in CNN.com. Since the advice is not black and white, parents have to weigh competing opinions, calculate risks and benefits, watch the case data, and adjust as needed. Until kids can get vaccinated, too, we’ll have to do what we’ve done throughout the pandemic: Play it safe and “follow our gut.”

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