Staying Home for a Cause: Social Distancing FAQs

Schools are closed, restaurants are empty and leaders are telling everyone in Connecticut and other parts of the country to stay home due to the coronavirus pandemic.

This can be really hard for all of us, including kids. It helps to understand the reasoning behind it, and to know if you’re doing it right.

Here, our pediatric experts break down the what, why and how of social distancing.

(Want a quick video explanation? Check out this video by pediatric urologist Courtney Rowe, MD, and Grace H. Hong, a nurse practitioner in the Infectious Disease division.)

What is social distancing?

  • It means keeping your distance from other people – at least six feet, and ideally, much more. In other words: Limit your close contact, indoors and outdoors, to your children and any other family members who live with you. When everyone in a community does it, it’s one of the best ways to stop an illness from spreading.
  • At minimum, that means skipping parties, avoiding crowds and staying away from public places and transportation as much as possible.
  • As coronavirus continues to spread, health and community leaders have urged everyone to take social distancing one step further: Stay home, and limit your contact to immediate family. Many essentials are now available on line from drugstores and even groceries. You can still make exceptions for essentials that are not available online, but minimize these trips and go at a time of day when few other people will be there.
  • Confused about the difference between social distancing and self-quarantining? Pediatrician Nancy Trout, MD, explains what self-quarantining means for your family.

Why is social distancing important right now?

  • Social distancing is about social responsibility. To keep the larger community safe, it’s important to slow down the spread of this virus.
  • While most kids seem to handle coronavirus well, the virus is dangerous for older people, or anyone whose immune system is already at risk. In addition, some young adults do get very sick with this virus. The U.S. only has so many hospital beds, providers, nurses and supplies, so if lots of people get sick all at once, it would be hard to take care of them.
  • That’s why Connecticut Children’s is limiting clinic visits and surgeries to kids who can’t wait, plus putting visitor restrictions in place. This ensure we don’t take resources and supplies away from other hospitals who need them to take care of sick adults.
  • Families and friends can do their part by staying home.

If my child and I don’t have coronavirus symptoms or exposure, does this still apply to us?

  • Yes! While it’s true that children aren’t at great risk from coronavirus (and if they do get sick, their symptoms will probably be mild) you should still keep your child – and your child’s germs – in one place.
  • Why? Since young children are getting such mild symptoms from coronavirus, they may pass the virus on to someone else without you ever realizing they were carrying it. And since coronavirus germs can live on surfaces for a couple days, this doesn’t even have to happen face-to-face! If a child or person who has coronavirus sneezes in a public place, they could pass germs onto lots of people.
  • Bottom line: Even for kids who feel perfectly healthy – and adults, too – the fewer people and places they come in contact with, the safer for everyone.

> Want help getting your family through COVID-19? Check out our School Closure Kit

Can my child and I still go outdoors and leave windows open for fresh air?

  • Yes. Social distancing is about staying away from other people, not staying inside.
  • In fact, it’s a good idea to build outside-time into your child’s routine during school closures. A break for fresh air is one of the best ways to keep kids engaged in learning at home. Want more tips? Check out the resources in our School Closure Kit.
  • Just keep in mind that you should keep at least six feet distance from others, whether you’re inside or out. This means avoiding highly trafficked areas like public playgrounds.
  • If you do take your child to a playground, find one with few or no other children and disinfect any surfaces you and your child touch before and after playing.

Is it OK to touch surfaces like doorknobs in public places?

  • To whatever extent is possible, avoid touching high-touch surfaces in public places, like railings and doorknobs, and use a disinfectant wipe to clean things like the handle on a grocery cart. When you must touch something, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends using a tissue or your sleeve to cover your hand or finger. If that’s not an option, do what you need to do; just be careful not to touch your face and wash your hands as soon as possible.

After grocery shopping, do I need to wash all the items I bring home?

  • According to the Food and Drug Administration, it doesn’t seem like COVID-19 is transmitted by food or food packaging, so experts don’t specifically recommend washing items that are in packaging. (But if it makes you feel better, go ahead and wipe down cans and boxes with soap and water or disinfectant wipes.)
  • As always, wash fresh produce right before using it. As always, wash your hands first, then clean produce under clean cold tap water by rubbing it with your hands or using a scrub brush, and dry it with a clean paper towel or dish towel. Steamed vegetables are also an alternative to eating them raw. Even if you don’t plan to eat the exterior or skin of the produce, still clean it to avoid transferring any germs or contaminants to the inside.

If I’m spending most of my time indoors with my family, how often should I be washing my hands?

You should wash your hands any time you may have picked up someone else’s germs, had your hands near your face or are about to be in a situation where you might transfer your own germs to someone else. This includes:

  • Before you leave the house
  • Immediately upon returning to your house
  • Before preparing food, and before and after eating
  • Every time you cough, sneeze or blow your nose

Is it OK for me to bring my child to visit their grandparents?

  • As hard as it may be, you and your child shouldn’t visit older relatives in person, since they’re at the highest risk of coronavirus. (If you do need to drop off food or medicine, leave it on the doorstep.)
  • Find ways to help your child and their grandparents feel connected right now, through plenty of phone calls, daily video chats and handwritten notes and care packages. Put a family dinner on the calendar – and hold it over Facetime.

Can my child still have playdates?

  • Unfortunately, no. You should cancel in-person play dates, because they’re one of the ways that the virus might spread. Furthermore, playmates may have vulnerable people in their household who could get very ill if they acquire the virus. Take advantage of technology to help your kids feel connected with friends virtually.
  • Need ideas to help your child burn off all that energy they’d usually use in play dates? Check out 23 Indoor Activities for Heart-Healthy Kids.

Get comfortable, at least for now.

  • Experts don’t know yet how long it will take to slow down the coronavirus pandemic, and social distancing measures – like school closures, event cancellations, and work-from-home policies – will probably be in place until they do.
  • One important takeaway is this: Each one of us plays a critical role in ending this epidemic. The better everyone is about social distancing, the stronger the chance of slowing coronavirus and life returning to normal. At that point, your family will be more than ready to celebrate with friends and community. For now, make it a private party.

Questions about coronavirus? Connecticut Children’s COVID-19 hotline is open 24/7. Call 1.833.226.2362.

Learn more about coronavirus >

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