There are still so many unanswered questions about what we should be doing amid the COVID-19 outbreak – particularly what the healthy among us can do to "flatten the curve" and help lessen the spread of the virus. Our government is not reticent about mandates to follow, and even a call to my children's pediatrician was met with indefinite "I can't tell you what to do" replies.
Thus, I've had to do my own research in order to make the best educated guess about what my family will be doing in the days and weeks ahead. If, like many parents, you aren't sure of what the right move is, here's how I plan to keep my family and my community safe.
I'm Taking My Kids Out of School
Scientific research maintains that the sooner you close schools, the slower the disease's transmission rate becomes. So far only eight states have announced public school closings, and even though mine isn't among them, I've decided to electively pull my child from her preschool. I understand the complexities in closing schools, particularly for the 1.5 million students who are "housing-insecure" and for the millions more who rely on free or reduced-price meals as their only food source. Sending them home is, in essence, an entirely separate public health risk. Because my family is fortunate enough not to need such services, it's in my community's best interest for us to lessen the burden on teachers and administrators who are keeping the school's doors open.
I'm Not Visiting Elderly Relatives
This is certainly easy for me – I live hours away from my children's grandparents. However, if we were in close proximity, I would abstain from visiting them for the time being. Because people can have COVID-19 and not be symptomatic, there's simply no way of knowing if my children or I have the virus. For those who rely on elderly parents to watch their kids, I'd strongly suggest making alternative arrangements however possible. Every family's needs are different, but we should do our best to prioritise those who have the greatest risk of suffering complications from this virus.
I'm Not Attending Birthday Parties
My kids' social calendar is packed every weekend, but I'm respectfully rescinding any RSVPs to any event that is a large or moderately-sized gathering. As a Pinterest-loving party prepper, I'd certainly be bummed to have to cancel a birthday party – not to mention explain to my young child why we were no longer having it – but for me, the same rules apply as they do to sending my kids to school with lots of other kids. Studies suggest that "social distancing," particularly from heavily populated events, is effective at slowing the spread of disease.
I'm Keeping an Open Mind About Playdates with Close Friends
Crowded parties are one thing, but I'm still unsure of how I'll handle more intimate gatherings. For now, I'm going to keep my standing playdate with two close family friends, baring in mind that nobody has symptoms. There's no perfect, fool-proof way to do this, but we'll practice good hygiene, keep a healthy distance from one another, and routinely disinfect high-trafficked areas – like bathroom taps, doorknobs, and light switches. The general thinking around this is constantly shifting, so this may feel like a terrible idea tomorrow. If that's the case, it'll be off the table.
I'm Going on Walks to the Park, but Not the Playground
My kids are kinetic balls of energy. They need to move. Quite frankly, we all do. The idea of isolating my family in my home for several weeks is daunting and unhealthy, so I've decided to plan at least two daily outdoor excursions. We'll mostly go for walks, but they'll definitely be getting their money's worth out of their scooters and balance bikes. We'll leave the house during quieter periods, not that rush hour will be very rushed in the coming days. We'll be sure to keep our distance from fellow pedestrians, and although our dog loves greeting strangers, we won't be allowing anyone to pet her. We'll head over to the neighbourhood parks, but we'll have to prep our kids that they won't be allowed to touch the playground equipment.
I'm Remaining Calm
My children are sponges – whenever the TV is on, whenever my husband and I are talking, they are soaking it up. With that in mind, I'm going to find age-appropriate ways to educate them about the news without alarming them, I'm going to remind them how viruses can make anyone sick regardless of a person's race or ethnicity, and I'm going to my level best to remain calm and maintain the joy that makes life worth living.