Remember when we all thought the pandemic would end after a two-week quarantine in March 2020? As a parent of two toddlers in preschool, I have had many two-week quarantines over the last two years — each one feeling longer than the last — as my kids have faced countless COVID exposures at school. But three weeks ago, my 4-year-old and almost 3-year-old actually tested positive for the first time, and I’ve never felt more defeated as a parent.
When my kids first started preschool in August 2021, the teachers and staff required everyone 2 and up to wear a mask. We worked with my younger son, Liam, for months to make sure he would be able to do it, and we felt pretty confident about sending him and his older brother, Logan, to school with all the extra cleaning precautions they were taking. After two weeks, we had our first at-home quarantine due to an exposure. Luckily, nobody got sick and classes resumed like normal.
Around October, the school made the decision to no longer require masks and almost every student and teacher stopped wearing them. Since things had been getting better, we didn’t require our kids to wear masks at school either (although we still masked up when going to the grocery store and other indoor spaces). My kids did come down with a few common childhood illnesses (like RSV and the common cold) during this time, but we still felt pretty safe sending them to school. Until the Omicron variant started spreading in December.
My kids were out of school due to Christmas break at the time, and my husband and I spent long hours trying to decide if they should go back. They are still too young to be vaccinated, and I was worried about them getting sick and me getting sick, as I am 8 months pregnant. My husband and I are both fully vaccinated and planning on vaccinating our kids as soon as they’re old enough, but that doesn’t make things any easier right now. Especially as most people in our area of Texas seem to think that COVID is over, not caring about gathering together mask-less and avoiding vaccines, despite almost all counties in the state still reporting a high community transmission rate, according to the CDC.
Since we both have to work, we decided to send our kids back to school in January. It felt like a completely isolated decision, as there hasn’t been clear guidance from the federal government, local leaders, or our kids’ school. We were worried about their health, but also didn’t know how else we could work and watch the kids at the same time.
A week and a half after returning to school, Liam woke up with a fever and tested positive for COVID. I was absolutely heartbroken — was it my fault that he was sick, since I knew it was a risk but sent him back to school anyway? As he cried due to his high temperature and let out a barking cough that kept me up at night anxiously checking on him, I felt worse and worse. Why did this feel inevitable as a parent of children under 5? Surely there should be better options this far into the pandemic!
A few days later, Logan and I tested positive for COVID as well, and we both spent the day cuddling and watching TV as our fevers raged on. I felt absolutely miserable with extreme body aches and ended up having to go to the emergency room to have my unborn baby checked for oxygen and pulse (thankfully, he was fine). After a few days, everyone felt much better, and we navigated the rest of our quarantine period trying to keep the kids entertained without taking them to the playground or school.
It turns out, my family aren’t the only ones who are absolutely struggling right now. The last two weeks have seen a huge spike in pediatric COVID cases across the country thanks to the Omicron variant, according to a new report by the American Academy of Pediatrics. They reported Tuesday that nearly 1,151,000 U.S. kids were infected with COVID-19 last week, which is a 17% increase from the week before. Over 2 million pediatric cases of COVID-19 were reported in the last two weeks, which is 20% of all cases in the U.S. since the pandemic began!
The rise in COVID cases poses awful dilemmas for parents — is it still OK to send your kids to daycare or school? Can they still tag along grocery shopping with you, or visit their elderly grandparents? Are public playgrounds OK? Making these constant decisions that risk your child’s health is so emotionally draining for a parent. Then there are the logistics of rearranging schedules in the event of a quarantine, not to mention the exhaustion of trying to keep the rest of your family from getting sick when one person does.
Hopefully, the end will be coming soon. On Jan. 19, White House Chief Medical Advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci said he is hoping the Food and Drug Administration will approve Pfizer and BioNTech’s vaccine for children under 5 years old soon. “My hope is that it’s going to be within the next month or so and not much later than that, but I can’t guarantee that,” Fauci said during the interview with Blue Star Families, a nonprofit group that supports military families, per CNBC. “I can’t out guess the FDA. I’m going to have to leave that to them.”
The company announced in December that they didn’t identify any safety concerns with the 3-microgram vaccine doses in children 6 months to 4 years old and are planning on submitting data to the FDA “in the first half of 2022.”
Although we know vaccines aren’t a guaranteed deterrent of COVID, at least they have been proven to lower your risk of getting and spreading the virus, and they help prevent serious illness and death in children and adults. When my kids are able to get the COVID vaccine, it will take one more worry off my plate.
While we patiently wait for the vaccines to be available, my husband and I are just trying to just do the best we can, but we are struggling. Raising kids, giving them social interaction and mental stimulation, staying productive in our jobs, taking care of our own mental health, and trying to avoid a COVID-19 diagnosis at the same time isn’t easy. Parents have to decide for their families what is the best choice for them right now — and I completely understand how difficult that is to figure out. We can get through this, one day at a time!
Before you go, check out our gallery on Cute & Stylish Kids Face Masks.
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