This is a very complex question with no cookie-cutter response. There is no way for me to give you a one size fits all solution, as each person is different and each situation unique.
Instead, I have decided to break this question down, so that I can hopefully help you think through the concern from a variety of perspectives.
In my mind there are two major items to consider:
- Physical Health
- Mental Health
Let’s start with physical health because I think this is easier to break down for most people.
First of all, we know, that in general, CV19 seems to be fairly benign in most healthy children. Therefore, if your child has a strong immune system and is otherwise healthy, their risk is very low, even if they are exposed at school. Their risk is not zero, as there are still some unfortunate cases where children do get ill, but at this point, thankfully, that still seems fairy rare.
Some of the latest research shows that there may be minimal to no transmission from asymptomatic individuals and that the CDC and WHO are now more concerned with identifying “Pre-Symptomatic” individuals. This means that if you do send your child to school and they begin to exhibit symptoms like a cough or fever, please keep them home to keep others safe. The school should also be screening for any symptoms!
If you are considering sending your child to school or camp, the first question to ask yourself is… What is your risk tolerance?
If you are very risk averse, then there certainly remains a small risk of infection to your child at school and you may want to keep them home for the next few months and see where things go.
If you are not risk averse and you are ok with the small risk at school, then this may push you to consider sending your children back to school sooner than later. The reality is that we just do not know what the trajectory of CV19 is. There could be a major second spike in the winter or it could go away completely over the summer. Unless you have a crystal ball, your guess is as good as mine (PS if you do have a crystal ball, please let us in on where things are going 🙂
You also need to look at the statistics in your area. How many cases are there around your home? Are the cases going up or down?
There are some towns where there are zero cases so the risk would be negligible. There are other areas where cases continue to rise.
Second, there is the mental health component to your decision.
Where are you at mentally? Are you doing ok, or are you at your wits end and truly need some additional support from school or camp.
How are your children doing mentally? Do they seem unphased by everything going on or are they suffering from a lack of social interaction?
You also must consider the new rules that will be imposed at your school or camp and how those will affect your child’s mental health. The rules from the CDC are fairly stringent.
Do you agree or disagree with these rules? How is your local school implementing them? Are they following all the guidelines or some of them?
Will your school/camp be requiring masks to be worn all day? Are you comfortable with your child wearing a mask all day? Is your child able to wear a mask all day?
You need to balance the mental health effects of staying home versus those of them being in school. Some children may not do well with masks. They may not do well with restricted movement and recess.
You truly know your children best so there is no way for me to make that judgement call.
As I said above, this decision is not easy.
There is also a financial component. If you are going back to work, you may have no choice but to send your kids back to school/camp. There is also this practicality aspect to the decision that may supersede everything discussed above.
The way I would go about making this decision is to make a mental list of the pro’s and con’s of staying home over the next few months versus sending the kids back to school/camp.
If you continue to have major concerns about your children’s physical safety after you create this list and have the ability to keep them home, there is minimal risk in keeping them home for a few extra weeks to see where things go with the virus.
On the other hand, many of my patients and families in the practice are really struggling mentally and getting back to some sense of normalcy could have a significant positive impact on them.
As you can tell, this is why I have not been able to just give you a simple yes or no answer about going back to school.
Everyone needs to weigh the pros and cons carefully and come to a conclusion based on what you feel is best for your family. If you are unable to decide, speak with your provider. We are here to help you think it through!!
PS I am writing this post as of 6/22/20. Details on CV19 change rapidly so as always, please refer to the CDC and your local regulations for the most up to date information.