Hundreds of thousands of students will start school across Long Island next week amid the worst disease outbreak in the United States since 1918. It is indeed a time of fear and anxiety for many parents, who worry about their children contracting an illness whose cause is only loosely understood, whose symptoms can range from mild to debilitating, even catastrophic, and whose cure is months, if not years, away.
In our annual back-to-school editorial, we normally offer government guidance on topics from students’ study habits to bus safety. This time, we provide the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s best advice on keeping your kids safe amid the pandemic of 2020.
According to the CDC, parents should:
• Check their children each morning for signs of illness. Any child with a fever of 100.4 degrees or higher, sore throat, cough, diarrhea, severe headache, vomiting or body aches should not attend school. Any child who has been in contact with someone with Covid-19 should stay home as well.
• Identify their school point person(s) to contact if a child is ill.
• Know local Covid-19 testing sites in case their children develop symptoms.
• Make sure their children are up to date with all recommended vaccines, including for influenza. All school-aged children should get the flu vaccine every season, with rare exceptions.
• Review and practice proper hand washing at home, especially before and after eating, sneezing, coughing and adjusting a mask or cloth face covering.
• Be familiar with how their children’s schools will make water available during the day. Consider packing a water bottle.
• Develop daily routines before and after school — for example, what to pack for school in the morning, like hand sanitizer and a backup mask, and what to do when children return home, like washing hands immediately, washing masks and changing clothes.
• Talk to their children about precautions to take at school. Students may be advised to:
* Wash and sanitize their hands more often.
* Stay physically distance from other students.
* Wear a mask.
* Avoid sharing objects with other students, including water bottles, phones, tablets, pens, pencils and books.
* Use hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol. Make sure they are using a safe product. The Food and Drug Administration has recalled products that contain toxic methanol.
• Develop a plan as a family to protect household members who are at increased risk of severe illness.
• Make sure their children’s information is current at school, including emergency contacts and people who are authorized to pick them up from school. If that list includes anyone who is at increased risk for severe illness from Covid-19, consider an alternate.
How parents can help kids wear their masks
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, parents should:
• Have multiple masks for their kids, so they can wash them daily and have backups ready.
• Choose masks that:
* Fit snugly but comfortably against the side of the face.
* Completely cover the nose and mouth.
* Are secured with ties or ear loops.
* Have multiple layers of fabric.
* Allow for breathing without restriction.
* Can be washed and machine-dried without damage or change of shape.
• Label their children’s masks clearly, with a permanent marker, so they are not confused with those of other children.
• Practice with their children putting on and taking off masks without touching the cloth.
• Explain the importance of wearing a mask and how it protects other people from becoming ill.
• Consider talking to their children about other people who may be unable to wear masks because of medical conditions like asthma.
• Model mask wearing, especially when physical distancing is difficult or impossible to maintain.
• Praise their children for wearing masks correctly.
• Put masks on stuffed animals.
• Draw a mask on a favorite book character.
• Show images of other children wearing masks.
• Allow their children to choose their masks, as long as they meet the school’s dress requirements.
• Provide their children with containers or resealable bags labeled with their names to store their masks when they’re not wearing them, such as when they are eating.