With the arrival of the new coronavirus pandemic (Covid-19) and the confinement measures aimed at containing it, we were all forced to make adjustments to our routines. This has been challenging for everyone in general, but parents in particular, who have struggled to find a balance in the use of time between the responsibilities of work, home, and education and childcare. After 10 months of going through the reality that we had to live with many difficulties, many parents now need to return to their jobs in person. Others may be able to continue working from home, but still needing to split their time between work and childcare. For many, surely the announcement of the reopening of the Early Childhood Care Centers (Caipis) will sound like a great alternative to achieve a better balance of responsibilities. However, everyone will surely wonder if it is safe to send them to these educational institutions considering the health crisis that still afflicts us.
There is no doubt that part of the integral development of children includes developing socially and cognitively. For this, it is essential to share with other children and join an educational institution in a timely manner. However, before deciding whether it is time to send the children back to an educational center, I invite you to evaluate certain aspects to ensure the safety of both your child and your family.
First of all, I consider that the key factor to consider when making the decision whether or not to send your children to the Caipis is how much the virus is spreading in your community, that is, if the coronavirus cases in your community are increasing, decreasing or if they remain unchanged. Personally, I consider it unwise to send children to the Caipis if more than 5% of the coronavirus tests are positive within the area where they reside, due to the risk of contagion.
Second, I recommend thinking about the health risks for children and everyone who lives in the house. We know that some people are more likely to become seriously ill from the coronavirus, such as adults over 65 and people of any age who have other conditions such as hypertension, obesity, asthma, diabetes, or immune system problems. On the other hand, it has been shown that babies less than one year old can get more ill from the new coronavirus than older children. If your child is less than one year old, has a health condition, or lives with a person who has a chronic illness or is older than 65, you need to consider the risk of your child’s exposure to germs present in the community, including the new coronavirus.
Third, it is important to know the measures that the facilities will be taking to prevent the spread of Covid-19. Parents can make inquiries to the center about the biosecurity measures that they will be implementing, and thus make sure about things such as:
• That there are the resources (drinking water, soap and disposable paper for drying hands, alcoholic gel and masks) and the infrastructure (facilities for hand hygiene) necessary to protect the health of children and all personnel who works in the center.
• That there are no more than 5 children in the care of a single person, since younger children may find it more difficult to comply with physical distancing or the proper use of masks, so they may need constant supervision by grown ups.
• That the use of masks is encouraged and favored in children over 2 years of age, especially when they are in the classroom, and that it is mandatory at all times for all staff working in the center.
• That they implement physical distancing during meals, educational / recreational activities and nap time, maintaining a space of at least one meter between children.
• Organize the entry and exit of children to recesses, breaks and lunches in shifts, limiting mixing between groups from different classrooms.
• Ensure good ventilation in classrooms and plan to spend more time outdoors.
• That the constant and adequate disinfection of the materials and toys used in educational activities is guaranteed.
• As a requirement to enter the center, ask to have the complete vaccination schedule for the age and that the child has no symptoms or is suffering from an acute illness.
As a pediatrician, I know that being able to socialize and recreate with peers is an important aspect of children’s development. As the mother of a little girl, I can’t help but worry about the possibility of contagion that exists if my daughter interacts with other people. Ultimately, this is not an easy decision for parents, and there are several factors to consider before making it.
Ultimately, the decision whether or not to send the children back to the Caipis rests with the parents, evaluating their children’s care options, their need for work, and the health and safety of their family. Each family will know when the time is right and what is best for their child. The important thing is to stay informed about the behavior of Covid-19 in the area, the biosecurity measures that the educational center will implement, and the measures that are in everyone’s hands and that we must instill in our children to avoid contagion, such as use of masks, constant hand hygiene and physical distancing.
The author is a pediatrician