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Experts Weigh In: Your Guide to a Safer Summer During a Pandemic

Stay At Home regulations are easing through the summer, but while it may be tempting to fill a table at our favorite eatery or gather with the family at the beach, it’s important to take sensible precautions as we venture out.

Dr. Juan Dumois, a pediatric infectious diseases physician at John Hopkins All Children’s Hospital, would like everyone to remember that COVID-19 is still out there—and will probably last through this year and into 2021, or until a vaccine is developed.

“The most important thing is that everyone needs to remember that just because some restrictions are relaxed, it does not mean that the pandemic is winding down,” he cautions. “There’s a lot of misinformation on TV and the Internet when in fact, science says this virus will continue to spread because it is very contagious, and most people have not had it yet. When families want to venture out, be aware that there are still people out there with the virus transmitting it to people.”

Here are some tips from Dr. Dumois to help you prepare to enjoy Tampa Bay safely.

  • Children are not as affected by COVID-19, but can catch the disease, remain asymptomatic and pass it along to more vulnerable adults in their home. That’s why it’s still not a good idea to have playdates or to be in crowded places. Choose larger parks and deserted beaches.
  • Monitor kids closely when out to ensure they are practicing social distancing and cleaning their hands before touching their face. No phone conversations or chats with other adults: always keep an eye on your child .
  • The 6 feet of social distancing rule applies indoors. Once you’re outdoors and there’s potential for a breeze, you could be breathing what someone coughed out far upwind of you. Some physics studies show that you should keep the following distances: 15 feet if walking; 20 feet if running; and 50-60 feet if bicycling.
  • When using hand sanitizer, remember that you need enough that it takes 15 seconds for your hands to dry. This could mean 1 ½ to 2 squirts.

Precautions for the Pint-size crowd

Dr. Jennifer Katzenstein is the director of psychology and neuropsychology at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital, and the mother of a 3-year-old son. She recommends following CDC guidelines for masks for all children 2 years of age and above, but admits that with toddlers, “all of this is truly aspirational.”

  • Introducing a little fun is key. For physical distancing measures, she suggests teaching little ones to stay the distance of one alligator away from their friend. “I’ve made hand sanitizer super fun. It has special powers. We use it before the mask goes on and use it before the mask goes off. He loves to sing a song.”
  • Outdoor exercise is great, but take sensible precautions, like the family Katzenstein saw that made a 6-foot rock border around their spot on the beach. When out, note high-touch locations like elevator buttons, banisters and doors and ensure your child either avoid them or sanitizes right after touching.
  • Monitor mental health, especially because memories from toddlerhood are tied to a strong emotion. “Everything about going out causes anxiety.” she says. “As parents, it’s important to monitor our own anxiety and not pass it on. Kids look to us for safety. Stay as calm as possible so our kids can sense that. If we do experience stress and anxiety and our kids see it, have a frank and open conversation about that.”
  • Yoga, meditation and breathing exercises are all part of Katzenstein’s routine. She suggests checking in on older kids, asking how they are feeling, and making sure they are getting adequate rest and socialization. Says Katzenstein: “Good sleep and social support best predictors of reduced anxiety of stress and quarantine reported by other countries.

Daycare Dilemma

As the economy opens up and many head back to work, daycare for little ones becomes a pressing issue.  Dumois recommends:

  • Ideally, find a daycare situation where the child has fewer contacts, such as a home daycare with an adult and at most 1-2 other kids. If that’s not an option, ask a relative or friend who is out of work and offer to pay them.
  • If group daycare is the only option, ask the facility how often workers will wash their hands and sanitize the environment. Ask about diaper-changing procedures and the ratio of adults to children.

How to be a good camper

Area organizations like MOSI, the YMCA, ZooTampa and Glazer Children’s Museum have been busy prepping for summer campers by adhering to safety guidelines established by the CDC and American Camp Association. Parents can expect staggered and curbside check-ins, smaller groups, limited supply sharing, masks for counselors, constant handwashing and temperature checks prior to check-in.

RELATED: Tampa Bay Parenting’s 2020 Summer Camp Guide

Here are some tips for how you can prepare your little ones for summer camp during Covid-19?

  • Use disposable paper bags instead of lunch boxes or backpacks.
  • Send a change of clothes
  • Teach your child hands-free ways to open doors, push elevator buttons and turn on faucets
  • Invent a fun contactless “handshake” that your child can do with friends to avoid hugging

–Kate White, Glazer Children’s Museum

  • Teach your child not to share food or drinks with their friends, and not to share use of cameras, iPhones, iPads or anything else brought from home.
  • Explain that although the first thing your child will want to do is give a big hug to their best friend, they can’t do that right now! No touching others and stay 6 feet away from other campers. This is about the length of a cow, or the length of your bed at home.
  • Send your child with a mask, they are all the rage! Wearing a mask can protect your kids and their friends from potential germs.

–Cara Treadway, ZooTampa

Keep your children home if they or anyone in the same household are sick or showing signs of becoming sick. Communicate openly with us about sicknesses and symptoms within your household. We know kids can carry germs and during these precarious times, we each need to do our part to be socially responsible, keeping our community safe and healthy.

–Lalita Llerena, Tampa YMCA

Doctors Visits

Your doctor or dentist might be open for business and ready to see you. Here are some safety measures you may notice at BayCare’s network of clinics if you opt for an in-person rather than telehealth visit.

  • Appointment registration and check-in completed online prior to office visit
  • All doctors, staff, and patients are required to wear masks while in the clinic
  • Segregation of potential COVID-19 patients from other patients
  • Minimizing or eliminating the time in the waiting room
  • Clinics cleaned throughout the day with medical-grade sanitizers and antibacterial agents
  • Limited seating in waiting areas that has been reoriented to accommodate for social distancing
  • Hand sanitizer readily available for patients and staff
  • Contact-free payment
  • Visitors and guests limited to the patient’s parent or caregiver when needed
  • All BayCare team members have their temperatures checked when they report to work every day. Team members that are symptomatic are not allowed to come to work.

Originally published in Tampa Bay Parenting’s June Issue.

Anu Varma Panchal
Anu Varma Panchal
Associate Editor Anu Varma Panchal has a master’s degrees in journalism and more than 15 years of experience writing and editing for newspapers and magazines in Illinois, Iowa and Florida. She has lived in Florida for more than 10 years, and enjoys raising her two daughters in Tampa Bay. When Anu isn’t writing or editing for area publications, she’s busy driving her kids to all their music and dance activities. She volunteers regularly in her daughters’ schools and Parent Teacher Associations, and spent a wonderful two years immersed in local history as a volunteer in the Tampa Bay History Museum’s Collections department. Although her idea of the ultimate good time is usually found between the pages of a book, Anu also enjoys yoga, her book club, travel, theater and area food and music festivals.

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