What’s the Risk? Which Activities Are Safe When Kids Aren’t Vaccinated Yet

In previous editions of What’s the Risk?, Connecticut Children’s pediatric experts have covered everything from playgrounds to farmers markets throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

But things just got more complicated for families whose adults and older teens are vaccinated but younger kids aren’t. With COVID-19 and its variants still significant in the community, it’s important to keep unvaccinated kids away from risky situations by choosing activities wisely.

Connecticut Children’s Physician-in-Chief Juan Salazar, MD, MPH, weighs in.

 

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Continue to take precautions to keep your child safe from COVID-19.

  • Unvaccinated kids should continue to wear masks, including outdoors. (The CDC recently announced that fully vaccinated individuals do not need to wear masks outdoors, which might apply to the adults and older teens in your family – but your unvaccinated child still needs to wear theirs.)
  • Being outside in the fresh air is still the best way to reduce everyone’s risk of catching or spreading COVID-19.
  • If you’re considering a group activity or event, confirm COVID-19 precautions ahead of time. Are masks required? Is there a plan for social distancing? Will attendance be limited?
  • If anyone in your family is feeling sick or may have been exposed to someone with COVID-19, please stay home and call your doctor.

Lower Risk Activities

Two grandchildren climb on, kiss and hug grandfather

  • Visiting with fully vaccinated loved ones: As long as your unvaccinated child isn’t at high risk for COVID-19 complications due to an underlying medical condition, the CDC says they can visit fully vaccinated individuals from one household, even indoors and without a mask. (For kids who are high risk, a safer alternative is to visit outdoors and with masks.) That means that visits with grandparents are back on! But if more than one household shows up, move the fun outdoors and with masks.
  • Playdates with precautions: With the right safety measures, this can also be lower risk. Limit the group size, hold activities outside when possible, and make sure kids wear masks. Space kids three to six feet apart when it’s time to eat or drink.
  • Camping:  Make sure the park requires masks and social distancing in communal spaces like the visitor center and that there will be plenty of distance between campsites. Remind your child to only greet neighbors from six or more feet away, and with a mask on.
  • Quiet beaches and parks: Thanks to the wide open space, these are lower-risk destinations – but as always, if other families are around, your child should wear a mask and maintain six feet of distance.

> Related: How to Make Your Home Playscape Safe for Kids

Moderate to High Risk Activities

Boy and girl ride in two-person kayak

  • Summer camp: Depending on the safety measures that the camp takes, this is anywhere from low to high risk. Camps should have a COVID-19 screening policy for when campers arrive, create cohorts, strictly enforce masks when cohorts mix, and have plans in place for social distancing and hand hygiene stations. They should host as many activities outdoors as possible, and indoor spaces should be well ventilated.
  • Public swimming pools: Physical exertion and yelling can easily spread germ droplets into the air – so swimming in a public pool, even outdoors, is higher risk when there’s a crowd. You can reduce your child’s risk by going at off-peak hours and making sure your child can keep their distance from others, in and out of the water.
  • Movie theaters: Because this takes place indoors and for an extended period of time, it’s a higher risk. If you do choose to head to the movies, you’ll need to wear masks and keep your your distance from other moviegoers. Avoid clustering in high-traffic areas, like the refreshments counter.
  • Travel: The CDC advises against travel for anyone who isn’t fully vaccinated, because airports and rest stops put your family in close contact with people outside your household. If you’re still considering it, check out this advice for safer travel during COVID-19 – like opting for a road trip. You’ll also need to check state and local health departments to see if there are any travel restrictions for where you live, and for anywhere along your route or where you’ll be staying.
  • Popular beaches: The more crowded the setting, the riskier it is – even outdoors. So do your research, and avoid popular beaches at peak times. If you do visit the beach, your child should wear a mask if they’ll be within six feet of other people.
  • Eating at restaurants: Eating and drinking around others, when masks are off, is a high-risk activity for unvaccinated individuals. So until your child is vaccinated, you should still stick with safer alternatives, like packing a picnic to eat at a park, or choosing curbside delivery to eat at home. If you’re set on eating at a restaurant, choose outdoor seating: Thanks to the fresh air circulation, it’s much safer than indoor dining.

> Related: Is It Safe to Send Your Child to Summer Camp During COVID-19?

Keep an eye on the latest news for a COVID-19 vaccine for younger kids.

The vaccine has been authorized for children as young as age 12, and trials for even younger children are ongoing. Once your child is eligible, please plan on scheduling theirs. It’s the best way to keep them safe from COVID-19 so your whole family can return to the activities you love.

 

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