MADISON – UW Health is offering tips for parents to stay safe as their children go back to school or leave for college. Both scenarios present different challenges and risks of exposure to COVID-19.
“We know these are difficult times for parents as they weigh the benefits of in person education for their children against the sometimes difficult to interpret risk they may be exposing their children and themselves to during this historic pandemic. As health officials we want to offer guidance to families grappling with these issues,” said Dr. Jeff Pothof, chief quality officer at UW Health. “There is not a one size fits all solution. Individual schools and parents will face different challenges and select different solutions. Parents will need to evaluate the approach being taken at their school and decide what makes sense for their family given the circumstances.”
Tips for K-12:
• Carefully review your school’s safety procedures. If your school is offering in-person learning, make sure you understand and are comfortable with the answers to these questions:
1. Will the school be able to physically distance the students and teachers while in the classroom?
2. Will the school require all students and staff to wear a mask?
3. What plan does the school have to prevent large groups of students gathering together at pickup, drop off, and in the hallways between classes?
4. What additional safety measures are being implemented at lunch time when children will be unmasked to eat?
5. How is the school ensuring recess time is safe?
6. How will the school identify students who may have symptoms and safely have them leave the school to quarantine or get tested?
• Talk to your child about what they can do to prevent catching or spreading COVID-19. Masks, handwashing, and physical distancing are strategies that must be used together to decrease the spread and keep both students and parents safe.
• Assess your family’s risk. If you or your child have health factors such as obesity, severe breathing problems, or diabetes that put you at a higher risk of suffering severe consequences from the virus, virtual learning may be a preferred option for you.
• Monitor everyone in the family for symptoms and do not send your child to school if they or anyone in the family exhibits even the very mildest of symptoms for COVID-19. Do not assume it is allergies or a simple cold.
Tips for College:
• In addition to the general guidelines above, college students’ behavior while away from home can affect your risk as a parent if and when they come home to visit.
• It is important to have an honest and transparent dialogue about your college student’s behaviors – are they going to bars, large gatherings, or participating in other high-risk activities? Are they reliably wearing masks and practicing physical distancing? Do they have access to testing if they develop symptoms?
• If you as a parent are at high risk of having a severe case of COVID-19, you may want to restrict home visits if your child is taking on more risk than you would take on yourself.
“There is no zero risk decision when it comes to the back to school issue, so we urge families to continue to practice good hand hygiene, observe physical distancing and wear masks which will decrease the spread of COVID-19 and get all of us back to “normal” sooner,” said Dr. Pothof.