Discussing the Impacts of COVID-19 on Children
The most common concern is that children returning to school will increase the spread of COVID-19. While returning to school isn’t free of risk, Dr. Doran asserted that the benefits to children far outweigh the risk to the community. “We know that children are rarely seriously impacted by COVID-19. They have an innate resistance to it, and they clear the virus very quickly,” he explained. “There isn’t any evidence that community spread is worse when children are in school.”
Children have been disproportionally affected by the pandemic, especially those with challenging home environments. “For many children, this affects food security and access to social services that they would normally receive in school,” he described. Dr. Doran also reported seeing increased social isolation and depression in children due to their inability to go to school and socialize with their friends.
He encouraged parents to regularly check in with their children and to make sure they stay active. Even though the weather is cold, it is critical that children move their bodies and play. “Exercise is really important as well as maintaining social interactions as much as possible through the internet,” said Dr. Doran. He also suggested that children participate in activities with other children in lower risk environments. Outdoor games of tag or baseball allow physical distancing and are safer than activities that are indoors and involve close contact.
Dr. Doran was asked whether schools should wait to return to in-person learning until children are vaccinated. He replied by saying that that was unrealistic. There is currently no data on how COVID-19 vaccines affect children, and clinical trials on children under the age of 16 are only just beginning. “It could be years before we know whether these vaccines are safe for children or not,” he explained. Dr. Doran did say that children should be vaccinated eventually, but only after the COVID-19 vaccine has been approved for that age group.
He also acknowledged that children are not the only people impacted by virtual learning. Many parents have had the difficult task of working from home and managing their children’s education for almost a year. This is draining and can negatively affect parents’ mental health and productivity at work. Dr. Doran believes that in-person learning will help the entire family. He encouraged parents to communicate their frustrations and concerns to their local school system and PTA. “I think it’s time for people to come together and make recommendations to their school boards,” he said.
Click here for resources to help maintain the social, emotional, and mental well-being of your child during COVID-19.