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What are the rules for kids during the COVID-19 pandemic?

April 14, 2020 • read

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What are the rules for kids during the COVID-19 pandemic?

After brushing off coronavirus in the early days, Canadians are now reacting in a big way. There’s no toilet paper on the shelves, schools are closed, and if you work in any industry involving crowds, you’re likely wondering how you’re going to pay your bills. On top of that, you’re at home with your kids for another few weeks (or longer). No one wants to spread the coronavirus, but watching continuous TV at home isn’t too appealing either. There’s probably no better way to throw your anxiety into overdrive. So what’s a concerned parent supposed to do? Let’s start with the facts.

How does COVID-19 affect kids?

There’s a lot we still don’t know about the novel coronavirus. So far though, it seems like kids are better off than adults when they do get COVID-19. Symptoms of COVID-19 in kids typically look like a cold and they might get a fever and/or cough. And unlike adults, cases of children becoming seriously ill or dying are extremely rare. 

There is a caveat though — kids can spread the virus, even before they exhibit any symptoms, just like adults. And those they spread it to (like their grandparents) may not be as resilient. Especially if they’re immunocompromised, over 60, or have certain pre existing conditions. So while your kids will probably be fine if they contract COVID-19, the same can’t be said for those they interact with.

Does coronavirus mean no playdates?

You don’t have to lock yourself inside your house, but the rules of social distancing still apply to the outdoors. If you’re out for a walk, the CDC recommends keeping at least six feet away from others in public (about half a car length away). But social distancing extends to more than just that. Kids are notorious germ spreaders, and a bunch of them in one place right now isn’t such a hot idea. Unfortunately, this means play dates and playgrounds are a no-go. Virtual playdates, riding bikes or a family walk are better options. But if you or your kids are sick at all, self-isolating at home is a must. There’s no vaccine for COVID-19 yet, so limiting social interactions and hand washing are our only weapons for preventing its spread right now. 

What if I need to talk to a doctor?

If you or your kids need to see a doctor, it’s likely weighing on your mind. The last place you want to take your kids is into an area where many people may be sick — even if there aren’t reported cases of coronavirus in your community. So what’s a parent to do? There’s a few options.

  1. This should go without saying, but if you’re having a medical emergency, you have to call 911 right away. Don’t delay this because of fears over coronavirus. 
  2. If you live in BC and you have a non-urgent need (think getting a prescription refill, treating infections like pink eye or just getting medical advice), your medical services plan (MSP) will cover virtual doctor’s visits over video. More on how this works here.
  3. Outside of BC, you can also see a doctor online. Note that this isn’t covered by most provincial insurance plans, so there is usually a fee unless you have coverage through your employer or HSA.
  4. In Ontario, OHIP now covers online COVID-19 screening. You can talk to a doctor about any symptoms and possible next steps. 

Keeping your kids occupied for the next while is definitely going to require more creative thinking than usual. But while it may seem like a headache now, it’ll pay off in the long run. Wash your hands as soon as you get home and after touching any communal surfaces (doorknobs, toilet handles, etc), and make sure everyone in your household is following these precautions too. If you have relatives in a high risk demographic, the best way to show your love right now is by avoiding them for a bit. Community behaviour is the most important factor in helping us get this under control and the buck stops with you.

Talk to a doctor online.

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