Your kids are going back to school. But do you still have questions on how best to keep your children, grandparents and yourself safe while COVID-19 remains in our communities? Kim Parlee speaks with Dr. Vipan Nikore, Chief Medical Director, TD Bank about best practices for staying healthy this school year.
Dr. Nikore, let's start with the question, as kids are heading back to school, what should kids, parents, caregivers, and grandparents be thinking about? That's a big question, and maybe if we could just start with the caregivers and the parents because I think they're really the decision makers here.
- Thanks, Kim. Yes, very important question, especially this year, as you mentioned. But first, as you mentioned, what are the actual options that are out there? You can put your student-- your child into full-time school, of course. You can leave them at home and homeschool. There could be a hybrid. And then some people are getting together with neighbors in their community and creating pods where they have shared values around COVID-19 and doing teaching in that area. And today we'll focus a little bit more on particularly going into home-- I'm sorry, into schools where they're sending people back to school.
And remember, it's not a static decision. You can enroll someone, and it doesn't mean you couldn't take them out if you felt uncomfortable, for the most part.
So I think the important factor is-- most important factor is, what is the community spread? How much COVID-19 is actually in your community? There's a much higher chance of there being a COVID outbreak in the school if the actual number of COVID-19 is very high. And that makes common sense, but I think often people when they're evaluating this don't understand how that is really the strongest factor.
The second part is what is the school really doing in terms of limiting physical distance and just contact between the students themselves? And what happens if there is a COVID case? There probably will be COVID cases out there. How are they going to respond?
And in terms of limiting those sizes, things like cohorting students, limiting the actual class sizes, staggering different times-- there's a whole bunch of interventions that they can actually do-- the actual physical layout. So be familiar with what that is.
Look at your own child as well. Do they have any chronic conditions? How good are they at compliance, just knowing them obviously as their parent? So those are the types of things.
And, of course, think about who you're living with. Are you living with any high-risk individuals who have chronic disease or elderly, et cetera? And ultimately it's really a personal decision where you stand in terms of your risk tolerance, but I think it's important to have those basic understandings of the benefits and risks. And the CDC actually has a questionnaire that people can fill out and complete as well to help guide them.
- There's a lot there, and great insight on it. Before I get to the things that kids need to think about and maybe more elderly members of the family need to think about in this time, I want to just ask, you know, I'm a mom. I've got my son going to school. How do you distinguish when your kid has the sniffles or maybe the flu or is it COVID-19? I mean, what do you do?
- Very good question. The reality is you can't figure it out unless someone's figured something out that I and other clinicians have some magical way, but the reality is you can't. There's too much overlap between the influenza virus and COVID-19. You're not going to be able to tell the difference. The main thing is if there's symptoms that appear sort of flu-like, take your student out of school. Have them at home. Have them get tested. See a provider. Virtual health care is another great option, et cetera.
- Let me ask you then, going back to the original question, what are things that kids need to keep in mind? I mean, what do they need to remember? And I know this is challenging because if you're dealing with obviously young kids, it's different than you're dealing with 16-year-olds, but maybe you could run through the key things.
- Yeah, it's a very good question. I think this is one of those really big conversations you have with your child, and you really have to help them understand that this is a really temporary moment in time and that the things they were really looking forward to may not happen this year, but there's a good chance that will happen next year, right? So having that conversation and then emphasizing the importance of really doing all those basics around physical distancing, handwashing, all the different things that we are taught and really sort of emphasizing that with them. Of course there's mask wearing, and just that strong emphasis is going to be very important for parents to have conversations with their children.
- What about grandparents? And I'm going to broaden this out a bit, but when if you're grandparents with the kids going back to school or if you're an elderly caregiver or, honestly, just people who are older or maybe more vulnerable in the general community because we're going to start mixing things up again, so to speak, and then that's going to cause, I think, different things to consider. So what should they be keeping in mind?
- Yeah, there's definitely going to be a shift if you're putting your student in school. At the end of the summer, they were in a bubble, and they were maybe getting a little closer with their grandparents. And they were sort of in that bubble, and now they're going to school. You're going to have to have more safe measures for those living with chronic disease and elderly, keeping that distance apart, probably wearing masks, I would say.
You can do things-- of course, not sharing food, utensils. You just have to have that extra layer of caution maybe when they're meeting their grandparents, if they're not living with them, only doing it outside in outdoor areas, again, at distance.
And it's hard because grandparents want to hug and hang out with their grandkids, but I think that really has to be a no-no and do the best you can to limit things.
Again, look at community spread. That, again, is a very important factor in terms of the risk when they are in the same house there.
- Yeah, I know that's been the hardest thing in our family is that my son's grandmother wants to hug him desperately, and it's been a tough summer, to say the least.
Last question for you. You put out a note recently which talked about low-risk, medium-risk, and high-risk activity. There's a long list, but maybe you can just highlight a few that people need to keep in mind.
- There are some things when you are sending your child back to school beyond even things like sending them back with reusable masks and giving them reusable water bottles so they don't have to use a school tap, those things. But then even on the way to school, like transportation, walking to school or biking is going to be safer than carpooling with a bunch of people who are intermingling in different bubbles.
There's going to be issues around course selection for some of the older students. Art is going to be a little safer than being in a band or choir. How you actually-- sports, I should say, actually. Noncontact sports outside are going to be obviously more safe than contact sports. So there's some little things that we can actually do to-- packing food is another one. Pack food as opposed to them having to go to the cafeteria. That's going to decrease the likelihood of them being in a busy line, as an example. So little things we can still do to help.
- All right, Dr. Nikore, thanks so much. Appreciate your time.
- My pleasure. Thanks for having me.
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