Since COVID-19 vaccine distribution began in the United States in December, more than 130 million doses have been administered, fully vaccinating over 46 million people or 14 percent of the total U.S. population, according to NPR’s vaccine tracker, which is updated regularly. As more and more people qualify for the vaccine based on their state’s eligibility requirements, parents are getting protected against contracting the virus. The vaccine is not yet authorized for kids under 16, however, leaving American families with some vaccinated and some unvaccinated members, and little idea of when that will change. This is all to say, can our kids have playdates now?! Please?
Well, maybe. CNN Medical Analyst Dr. Leana Wen, an emergency physician and visiting professor of health policy and management at the George Washington University Milken Institute School of Public Health, just weighed in on what to do if you are vaccinated but your kids aren’t.
“For now, while the United States has a high baseline level of coronavirus circulating, it’s best for families with any unvaccinated individuals to see one another outdoors only, with members of different families spaced 6 feet apart,” Dr. Wen told CNN. “If children are playing together and can’t always abide by 6-foot distancing, they should be wearing masks.
“Try to be outdoors at all times,” she added. “If people must be indoors, they should wear masks around one another. And take extra care if your child has underlying medical conditions. Again, mask-wearing for them and everyone around them is really crucial.”
Advice from Harvard Health Publishing agrees: “With infection rates still high in much of the country, it’s best to minimize playdates, or to limit them to a couple of children or families with whom you have been socializing during the pandemic.”
Harvard Health also recommends continuing outdoor playdates only, which is getting easier in most of the country as the spring weather arrives. “Something like going for a bike ride, or a hike, allows you to be together while sharing fewer germs (bringing and using hand sanitizer is still a good idea),” the advice on Harvard Health suggests. “You need to have ground rules, though, about distance and touching, and if you don’t think it’s realistic that your children will follow those rules, then don’t do the playdate even if it is outdoors.”
Similarly to playdates, many families are desperate to have normal birthday parties again, but Dr. Wen says we’re not there yet.
“I’d certainly feel better about a birthday party in which I know that all the parents of children attending have been vaccinated, because the chance of someone there being an asymptomatic carrier of COVID-19 is much decreased,” she told CNN. “Still, given the number of unvaccinated children there, I wouldn’t want to gather indoors. I’d still make sure that the get-together occurs outdoors and that there is at least 6-foot distancing between families. Everyone should be wearing masks. The same goes for playdates, family reunions and other gatherings.”
Sigh. We sort of knew that was the answer, even though we wished it wasn’t. So while parents may want to relax their restrictions on their kids’ activities because we are all just so over it, the reality is we just can’t yet. Better to be safe than sorry, right? In the meantime, it’s a good idea to keep those pods going for your kids, and check in with each other to gauge how safe everyone is still being.
“At this point in the pandemic, we need to move to the concept of weighing risk and then trying to reduce it as much as possible,” said Wen. “Having parents vaccinated is an important step to reducing risk, even if children are not yet vaccinated, but there are still steps that must be taken to protect the kids — and everyone around us — from COVID-19.”
Before you go, check out our gallery on Cute & Stylish Kids Face Masks.