Day care, camp, hugging and playdates: What’s safe for kids during the COVID-19 summer?

Child and adult with masks and hand sanitizer

With summer here and the state gradually phasing its re-opening, many parents are seeking guidance on safety and good health as their children play outside, go back to day care, attend summer camps, arrange playdates with friends, and spend time with grandparents and other relatives.

We have seen a decline in COVID-19 cases in the Chicago area, but we don’t expect the virus to “go away” during the summer months. And while we know that children are less likely to contract the virus, it is not clear to what extent kids with COVID-19 transmit the disease to others. So, it is important to remain diligent in protecting our families, relatives and communities as we adjust to re-opening and allow our children to interact with others of all ages.

Daycare and Babysitting
Outdoor Activities, Sports and Exercise
Day Camp and Summer School
Medical Care
FAQs: COVID-19 and Kids

General Guidelines: Social Distancing, Face Coverings, Handwashing and Limited Physical Contact

How should I talk to my child about maintaining social distancing and hand hygiene?

Over the past few months, most children have likely heard daily reminders to wash their hands frequently and keep a safe distance from adults and children outside of their household. Before sending your child back to day care or to a camp, let them know that there will still be important rules to follow, such as keeping a distance from the adults, washing their hands often and wearing a mask some of the time.

What kind of mask should my child wear in public, and are there specific face covering guidelines by age?

The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) requires children over the age of 2 to wear a face covering, unless they are medically unable to do so, when in public. Many retailers are now selling face coverings, and patterns for kid-size masks can be found online.

Are there any specific precautions for eating outside at restaurants or public places?

Bring hand sanitizer along to any restaurant or other outdoor dining areas and be sure you and your children use it before and after sitting down to eat your meal. If you can, bring your own booster seat or portable high chair. Otherwise, wipe down any child seat/mat provided by the restaurant with a disinfectant cloth.

Is it safe for my child to give someone a hug without spreading coronavirus?

Hugging has many benefits beyond expressing affection. Hugs reduce stress, and can make us feel safe and not alone. We could all use those reassurances now more than ever! The good news is that the chance of transmitting COVID-19 during a quick hug is low. So it’s okay to let your children hug the grandmother or grandfather that they have stayed distant from for the past few months. To be extra safe, the child and the adult should take these precautions:

  • Don’t hug if someone is coughing or sneezing or has other symptoms of COVID-19
  • Wash your hands before and after the embrace
  • Wear a face covering
  • Look in opposite directions and hold your breath while hugging
  • Be brief and back away from each other

Can my children visit their grandparents now that some restrictions have been lifted?

If the grandparent is over 65, he or she is at a higher risk from COVID-19 than a younger adult. But with the virus here to stay for the foreseeable future, it is not sustainable to continue isolating the older generation from their families. With careful planning, grandparents and grandchildren can starting spending time together again. Here are some tips to minimize risk:

  • Meet outside, where it is easier to keep a safe distance.
  • Stay 6 feet apart at all times
  • Be sure anyone over 2 years old wears a mask
  • Wash your hands often
  • Avoid touching your face

If both grandparents and the grandchildren have been isolated for the past few weeks, the risk of transmission is very low. Longer visits, including overnights, could be considered.

After my child visits a public place or friend or family member's home, what precautions should be taken when returning home?

The most important thing upon returning home is to wash your hands. It’s also a good idea to wash your mask, especially if anyone near you wasn’t wearing a mask. Things like shoes, clothes and backpacks are low risk for transmission – as long as you remember to wash your hands before eating or touching your face. There is a lot of information in the news about how long COVID-19 might live on different surfaces, but unless those surfaces directly contact your eyes, nose or mouth, all you need to focus on is hand washing.

Day Care and Babysitting

How should I prepare my child for returning to day care during the coronavirus pandemic?

Once you have checked to be sure your day care provider is following Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines for operating during the pandemic, prepare your child to return to the center. The new routine for arrival may include washing hands at the entrance of the building and wearing a mask (for children over 2 years old) until they reach their classroom. If they are old enough to understand, let your child know that there may be some new rules — such as washing their hands more often and staying with the same group each day — to keep everyone safe and healthy.

Is it safe to have a babysitter in my home?

It hasn’t been easy for those parents who have juggled working from home with keeping their kids busy with school work and other activities. Hiring a babysitter can relieve a lot of stress in your household, as long as you take some precautions and set down some rules to limit the spread of infection:

  • Regularly disinfect commonly used surfaces
  • Be sure everyone washes their hands often and avoids touching their faces
  • Remove shoes when entering the house
  • Ask your sitter to stay home if they are sick. You can ask the sitter to take his/her temperature before coming to work each day.
  • Sitters who work full time with one family and who are diligent about practicing social distancing, wearing masks and limiting exposure outside your (and their) households may safely interact with your family without wearing a mask.
  • Sitters who work with multiple families or who have other sources of COVID-19 exposure should wear masks when around your family.
  • Sitters should follow the family rules around venturing out into public – parks and other outdoor settings are preferable to indoor or other crowded locations.

Is it safe to drop off my child for babysitting at a friend or family member's home?

Any time you open up the circle of your family group, you are increasing the risk of COVID-19 exposure. Dropping your child off at a friend’s house for babysitting (or a playdate) risks exposing them to the members of the other family and to everyone that family has been in contact with. I recommend starting small, opening up your family group slowly; consider dropping your child off at one consistent location to minimize exposure.

Are indoor or outdoor playdates OK?

Until we know more about whether kids can be carriers of COVID-19 and spread the disease, I would not recommend indoor playdates. If you let your children play with others outside, limit it to just a few friends and encourage social distancing. Be sure your children wash their hands before they come back inside. It’s still best to stay away from playgrounds, swing sets, jungle gyms and other hard structures that could be contaminated with the virus.

Outdoor Activities, Sports and Exercise

It is safer to play outside because social distancing is easier to manage for you and your children. Here are some things to keep in mind if you take your family swimming or camping or send your child to a day camp this summer:

In the pool:

The coronavirus will be inactive in a pool that has the proper levels of chlorine and other standard pool chemicals. But, it is possible to spread the virus if you are standing or sitting close to someone in or around the pool. If your pool is open this summer, be sure to practice social distancing outside of your family group. Take extra precautions when it comes to touching items in shared lockers rooms – wash your hands, and do not touch your face.

At a beach or lake:

Once again, be sure to practice social distancing from those outside your group when visiting a public beach or lake. It’s not likely the virus will spread through ocean or lake water because a large amount of water will dilute the viral particles.

At a campground:

The Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDPH) has issued guidelines for camping at public campsites in Illinois. The precautions for campers, which include contactless entry, social distancing, and limits on outside visitors, are important to limiting the spread of COVID-19.

Day Camp and Summer School

Many recreational, educational and religious day camps are in operation. (Overnight camps are not permitted in Illinois this summer). The CDC has given suggestions and the state of Illinois has issued guidelines to help camps keep their staff and campers healthy and safe. Prepare your children by letting them know that requirements such as social distancing, frequent hand washing, small group activities, face masks (if feasible), will be in place.

The Illinois State Board of Education and the Illinois Department of Public Health recently announced the resumption of face-to-face instruction for summer school. Children going to summer school in classrooms will be required to wear a face covering and to adhere to social distancing policies and be prohibited from gathering in groups of more than 10 individuals. Before sending your child to summer school, explain that these precautions will help lower the spread of COVID-19.

Medical Care and Keeping Well

Is it safe for my child to visit a doctor's office for medical care?

Yes! UChicago Medicine’s Comer Children’s Hospital has safety protocols in place to make your family’s visit to the doctor as safe as possible. Here’s what you can expect when you come in for your appointment:

  • You’ll be asked to check in using your phone.
  • When it’s time for your appointment, we’ll ask that you and your child (if they are over 2 years old) enter with your face masks secured. If you don't have one, we'll provide one for you.
  • You’ll receive a mandatory wellness screening at the entrance. We’ll take your temperature (touch-free) and ask a few questions about your health and the health of those you’re in contact with. Then we will ask you to sanitize your hands.
  • Social distancing will be practiced everywhere – including waiting rooms. To make it easier to practice social distancing, we ask you to leave siblings at home if they do not have an appointment.
  • You’ll see your doctor in a clinical area that is cleaned and disinfected prior to every visit.
  • When your visit is finished, we’ll ask you to check out remotely to limit exposure to others on our campus.

When should my child resume receiving routine check-ups and vaccinations?

Routine check-ups are essential to your child’s health and should not be delayed. In some cases, a telehealth visit may be appropriate, but if your child is under 24 months, visits with the pediatrician should be in-person.

It’s important to follow the recommended schedule for childhood immunizations. Vaccines protect your child from preventable diseases and help prevent outbreaks in our communities.

What ways can I connect with a UChicago Medicine Comer Children's pediatrician without needing to leave my home?

Learn how to schedule a virtual visit here.

COVID-19 and Children

What are the symptoms of coronavirus in children, and how can I get my child tested?

Coronavirus symptoms tend to be milder in children and the risk of severe illness from the virus is lower. Some of the symptoms we’ve seen in children are:

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Runny Nose
  • Sore throat
  • Vomiting, diarrhea or nausea
  • Muscle pain
  • Headache

Because most children have mild symptoms of infection, they usually recover with supportive care (fluids, fever-reducing medicine). Testing can be useful to guide contact tracing and determine who else may be at risk of becoming ill. Testing may also be recommended or required by your child’s school or day care. We are learning more each week about a very rare, but potentially severe, complication after COVID-19 infection in children: Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children (MIS-C). Symptoms include fever, neck pain, rash, red eyes, abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhea, and feeling extra tired. Contact a doctor if your child has any of these symptoms. Seek emergency care if your child develops any of these emergency warning signs: trouble breathing, pain or pressure in the chest that does not go away, new confusion, inability to wake or stay awake, bluish lips or face, severe abdominal pain.

My child had COVID-19. When is she or he past the point of infecting others?

Most children recover from COVID-19 within two weeks. Children with normal immune systems can resume activities when it has been at least 10 days since symptom onset and three days fever-free without fever-reducing medication and all other symptoms improving. We don’t know how long-lasting protection against COVID-19 may be, so everyone who has recovered from COVID-19 infection should still wear masks and follow social distancing recommendations.

My child recovered from COVID-19. Has she or he developed immunity, so they won’t get the virus again?

There is good evidence that most people, including children, make antibodies in response to infection. We don’t know yet whether these antibodies will prevent infection in the future, and we don’t know how long the antibodies will last. Limited reports of reinfection are still being investigated, but there are a lot of unanswered questions. So far, it doesn’t look like patients are going back to the hospital with another round of infection, but even those who recovered early on have only been well for a few months. Experts from UChicago Medicine and around the world are working hard to answer these questions.

 

Hello and welcome today on At the Forefront Live. UChicago Medicine Comer Children's pediatric specialist will discuss summer safety for families during Phase 4 of COVID-19. Is it safe for your child to give someone a hug without spreading Coronavirus? Can your children visit their grandparents now that some restrictions have been lifted? Parents and experts, Dr. Allison Bartlett, Dr. Rochelle Naylor, and Dr. David Zhang will answer these and other questions from you during this Live Q&A that's coming up right now on At the Forefront Live.

[MUSIC PLAYING]

And we want to remind our viewers that today's program is not designed to take the place of a visit with your physician. We're going to start off with having each of you introduce yourselves and tell us a little bit about what you do here at UChicago medicine. And we're going to start with Dr. Bartlett. You're a very, very busy person these past few months. You wear many hats here, and we were actually kind of joking before the show started about the last time you were on-- your pager was going nuts, and that was right at the beginning of the pandemic, I believe.

That's right. And it seems like it's been just a minute, and also years and years. So yes, I do wear a lot of hats around here. I am the Associate Hospital Epidemiologist for all of our infection control work here.

And I'm also clinically a pediatric infectious diseases doctor. So I split my time between those two activities, and I have to admit, I'm appropriately socially distanced from you here in the studio, but having a little bit of anxiety because I haven't been like this before in all of At the Forefront beginnings of our health care workers doing their hard work-- not wearing masks, which is not what it looks like now. Gives me a little bit of-- panic.

That's old video.

Old video.

So we want to point that out. In fact, a lot of that was shot probably at least a year or so ago. And I do have my mask right here. You wore yours in, I saw you.

I've got mine.

So until we were in the right spaces, we had our masks on.

Absolutely.

So let's go with Dr. Naylor next. Dr. Naylor, if you can tell us a little bit about what you do here at UChicago Medicine?

Yeah, so I am a pediatric endocrinologist, so that's my clinical hat. I am both relieved and maybe jealous that I'm not in infectious disease. I would've been more prepared, but I also would be more busy.

Fantastic. And Dr. Zhang, and tell us a little bit about who you are and what you do here at UChicago Medicine. Yeah so I'm Dr. Zhang, one of the pediatric infectious diseases fellows. And so what that means is that I'm training to be someone like Dr. Alison Bartlett. I have one more year left before I become a full-fledged attending. And so what I do here is mostly just clinical training, but also some research to advance the field of infectious diseases.

And I do want to point out since we have Dr. Zhang and Dr. Naylor remotely join us, usually we would have everybody on set again, pre-pandemic, and that's why we do it this way. So we have a couple of guests at remote locations and one guest on the set and then we can keep everybody appropriately spaced.

So I also want to remind our viewers that as we do our program today, we will take your questions live. So just type them in the Comments section. We'll get to as many as possible over the next half hour or so.

Dr. Bartlett, I want to start with you on the questions. It seems like-- you mentioned, it seemed like just a few minutes or a few days ago that you're here or a lifetime ago, and I think people are getting a little tired of the slog, but this is very important that we continue to observe things like social distancing, masking, because we're coming up to maybe a difficult time.

I think you're absolutely right. You know, one of the things that our health care teams learned early on is that the things that we know about COVID and things that we're learning-- based on both science and just lived experience-- changes all the time. I mean, it's confusing enough in the health care setting, but also even more confusing when we're changing our recommendations for the public. So masking wasn't a thing, and then all of a sudden it became vitally important. And that's kind of hard to explain, but people are getting tired and I get it. I'm really tired, too. But we have done such an amazing job here in the Chicago area and all of Illinois about taking this seriously and even though we're tired, hanging in there and following the rules and helping keep everyone safe.

You know, I think you make a really great point there, just with how things have gone in the Chicagoland area. And Dr. Zhang, we'll go to you next. And I'm kind of curious to get your thoughts on this because you see some of the other big cities in the country, and New York obviously sticks out I think, in most people's mind. They had a lot of really significant challenges with COVID-19. And I think folks have maybe learned from that and some of these lessons are very difficult ones to learn, but this is not the time again to get complacent. We need to continue with our efforts.

Yeah, absolutely. As Dr. Bartlett said, you know, we've done a great job as a city, but also just you know individual communities and as a medical center, as well. I know like all the restaurants here and I feel like a lot of places here in the city have just enforced face-masking policies in their respective enterprises. And so I think yeah, just to echo what Dr. Bartlett said, we really just have to keep on with everything that we've been doing so far, individually, but also just communally, as well. Because I think the faster we want to get to normalcy or pre-pandemic life-- to our pre-pandemic lives, the more we have to keep on with hand-hygiene, social-distancing face-masking, et cetera.

Yeah, you know, Dr. Naylor, it's interesting, the better we are at this now, that will shrink probably-- I think-- the time frame of some of the challenges that we face. It's just so important and obviously, it helps people, so that's important.

We are getting questions from viewers already. So this is great, and I want to get to as many as possible. So Dr. Naylor, if you can tell us a little bit, one of the first questions we have from a viewer is back-to-school.

So that's obviously on a lot of parents' minds, and we were even discussing that before the program started. How do schools overcome some of the restrictions, or will they have the same restrictions that you see in the general public? And I know you can't speak as you know, to what the public schools are doing, but what should parents know, in your opinion?

Yeah, so this has been coming up a lot when I see patients, a lot of times virtually, and you know we do have some in-clinic visits, as well. And so it's on everybody's mind. The very first thing is that I understand a lot of schools are, I think sending out information today, or in the coming week. And the very first thing is that parents need to read very carefully all of the precautions that the schools have put in place and decide for themselves their comfort level for sending their children back. I think a lot of families will actually have the choice.

The things that you want to look for are, of course, plan for temperature-checking, plans for masking, plans for keeping the kids separate, and also how they're going to plan to kind of cohort children. You want children to kind of have the same peer group each day so that it's much easier to track if someone does have a possible case of COVID, a possible exposure.

So you want to look for those plans that the school has put into place. At the end of the day, though, you have to really think through your home environment, whether or not you have people that are higher risk, and your own comfort level. You

Know, it's interesting that you bring that up because my son, who's a senior in high school, or will be a senior in high school this next year, they just came out with the information for his district, and that was one of the things they mentioned was, that there were there would be an option-- distance-learning or appearing in person, but with some obvious restrictions. So that's something that we're debating right now and going through. He doesn't want to stay at home, which I can't really blame him, but we also want to make sure everybody's safe.

And so these are challenging conversations. And Dr. Bartlett, I don't know if you have any thoughts on, how do you talk to your kid about this? You want-- you want to stress safety, but you also-- they don't want to stay inside forever.

Absolutely. And it is really tough. So I have three boys-- 10-year-old twins and an 8-year-old. So staying inside and calm and quiet is not in the plans for us.

Not in their DNA is it?

It is not. And it's a really-- it's a busy time. But it's important to talk to them. And they're pretty savvy, not just because their mom does infectious diseases.

Sure.

I think one of the things that a lot of younger kids notice is all the people out there who aren't following the rules. Why do I have to wear this mask? Why do you have all these stupid rules, Mom and Dad? It's just the same as-- so-and-so can play Fortnite and you won't let me play Fortnite, but there's all these not following rules. And so you have to have a discussion about why it's so important.

And kids these days are amazingly resilient, but also thoughtful. Right? And so they get you're doing this to keep other people safe-- if it's more specific-- Grandma and Grandpa safe. They get it, that we do things for other people. This struggle about school is real. My twins are probably going to be in the same class, which they haven't been since they were three. I don't think it's going to go well, necessarily, for them, but epidemiologically, that's one fewer exposure that all those kids in classes have.

Yeah. You know, I'm old enough to remember when seat belts started to be required in cars. And people fought that and fought that, and now it's just a natural thing to do. And of course, that's protecting yourself and the masks, obviously, are protecting others. So it's just-- I think it's just education.

They're both habits that you need to just get used to.

Exactly. So we have some specific questions coming in from viewers that are good ones. And I want to get to-- I don't know who wants to take this first one, but let me read the question off. My son has had a bone marrow transplant here, actually, about six years ago. So is there any advice for his condition during COVID-19? And that's certainly a valid concern. Obviously, you want to watch your children-- particularly they've been through a situation like that. I don't know who wants to take that one?

I think Dr. Bartlett, maybe.

[LAUGHTER]

I think Dr. Zhang is perfectly able to, as well, but I'm happy to. So we don't know a whole lot about what might increase the risk of children for having a severe Coronavirus infection. There's more information in the co-morbid conditions in adults-- diabetes and high blood pressure and chronic lung disease. There are not a lot of kids with bone marrow transplants who've gotten COVID, because there's not a lot of kids who've had bone marrow transplants.

But we do think that that's probably an at-risk group. But I suspect that of all the families that we encounter in our lives, wearing masks and paying attention to not being around sick people and washing your hands is something that you guys just do as a matter of habit before and after COVID. So I think that really following the same sort of rules and considerations that everyone else is, especially when we're all being so careful, is the right thing to be doing.

So Dr. Naylor, I've got a tough one for you. And this is one of those questions that I think probably a lot of families are struggling with right now. And it's a tough one. The question is, is it safe for grandparents to visit a 12 year-old grandchild or grandchildren and family who don't believe in wearing masks?

Oh, yes. So you told me it's going to be a tough one.

That is a tough one, yeah.

Yeah, so I will actually speak from my own experience. My grandmother is visiting in Chicago-- not me, she's visiting my aunt. And I am going to take my children to see her. And they're going to wear masks. And they're-- we're not actually going to hug. And she's been here for more than two weeks, because she lives in Arizona. So that's a state where their control is-- they have a lot of COVID cases.

I know that my grandmother will not be happy with that interaction. To her, you're family-- you hug, you do all these things. And it's going to be a bit awkward, but that's how it's going to work, because I have to keep my children safe and I also have to keep her safe, you know? I work in the hospital, my youngest is in daycare. And so we may-- we have some potential exposures that I'd want to protect her from.

So I think in the COVID era, you just have to be tough and say, this is how-- these are the circumstances we will visit under, and otherwise, we cannot have you guys in contact.

Another question from a viewer I'm interested in daycare for younger kids-- two years-old. Mask complaints in that age category is likely low and hygiene and hands in mouth is high. What should I do? And I don't know who wants to take that one. Dr. Naylor maybe you could jump on that one?

Yeah, I will take that one, just because I have a kid in daycare. So my daughter is almost three. And you know, the daycare-- and I mentioned this before, when we think about school, you want to know what the facility has put into place. So once the daycare reopened, first off, they initially only reopened to people, to parents who were essential workers. Now they've expanded a little bit more. They have capped classroom sizes. You know, they keep all the teachers-- sometimes teachers would float around. That doesn't happen anymore.

So again, it's all about trying to keep the same group of people together, so that if there is an exposure, you've at least contained it. When we go and we have to answer every single morning five questions about our daughter's any exposures, any fevers, any symptoms, things like that. They temperature-check at the door. We drop her off outside. They take her inside. We're not allowed in. No stuff from home is allowed in. Obviously, for the younger kids, like the infants, they can have their formula and/or breast milk. But that's it. Like nothing can come in.

So you want to know that there's lots of precautions, and that's the first thing. There is a discomfort. Like I mentioned before, each family has to assess the members in their household-- what it means that they are potentially getting exposed. For myself and my husband who are both health care providers and going in the hospital setting, part of the day care is just a necessity.

And it's also that we ourselves have some exposures and I think that makes us-- I don't know what the word is-- it's certainly it's not lack, but it makes it seem that the balance of her going to take care is reasonable.

I will say, I don't think the kids do a great job keeping that mask on, but certainly my daughter puts it on herself. She asks for it. And so just as Dr. Bartlett was saying before, if you normalize it kids will get it. She says-- she's like, where's my mask? And you know, she'll say like I'm wearing my superhero mask, because I say superheroes keep people safe. You're putting it, on you're keeping people safe.

I think that's a great piece of advice, too, to kind of make it fun for the kids or give them that little hook there-- you know, it's their superhero mask. And you know, I remember, again, way back when my kids were younger and trying to burn into their brains that first of all, they had to be in car seats, and secondly they had to wear seat belts when they got a little older. And eventually, it's just second nature. And they won't even get in a car without putting a seat belt on now. It's just everybody's used to it. So I guess it's kind of the same thing.

So more questions from viewers-- should I get my kids tested for COVID before visiting grandparents for the first time since February? What do you think about that one?

I actually had this discussion with my physician parents before I took my children to see them. And I think it depends on a lot of things. One is where you're living and what the prevalence is in your area. So I think a lot of the things that we're talking about, the plans that we're making, are taking into account the fact that Illinois right now is at a much better place that a lot of other countries. The other thing I would take into account is what you have been doing for the past, essentially two-week period prior to going to see them. Right?

If you have been increasingly getting out and about and going and taking the kids to the grocery store and going to restaurants, your risk might be higher of having acquired COVID as opposed to just staying home and having one parent go to the grocery store once a week.

So the other point to remember is that just because you have a negative COVID test today, doesn't mean that you don't have a COVID exposure that may develop into an infection in a few days. So it really is that 14-day quarantine period, and then because of the risk of being asymptomatic, always wearing masks and socially-distance, unless you decide to expand your quarantine family.

Now the question from a viewer, how is contact-tracing going at UChicago? Are we able to notify all past contacts at campus within 24 hours? And Dr. Zhang, I don't know if that's one that you can handle for us?

I'll be honest, I'm not familiar with the contact-tracing program. You're welcome to pass it on to me. Contact-tracing is a really difficult labor-intensive process. And so I'm not exactly sure if the viewer is thinking about in the context of undergrad university, university? Or sort of within the hospital system?

We, in the hospital system, work on making sure that all of our patients are staying safe, our health care workers are all wearing masks and eye protection when they're seeing patients, and being socially-distant in a way that, for now, the contact-tracing becomes less critical, because really, we are really reliable in our personal protective equipment.

But I know there's-- we all wish contact-tracing across the country was up and running at a more stable way than it is now.

You know, I just know from personal experience, that our contact-tracing appears to be working pretty well. It seems like the contact with potentially-exposed folks has been pretty fast.

It is, and we have wonderful access to testing. And I think one of the most important things is our testing results are coming back in a day-- for our patients who come in and get curbside testing. Knowing a week from now that I was contagious today is not particularly helpful.

Yeah, it's interesting you bring that up because I was fortunate enough to get to see our lab area where we do the testing for the samples. And those folks are working 24/7. But it's amazing the output that they've been able to manage and the work they've done. So they really deserve a lot of credit.

Absolutely.

They're working very hard through this. Another question from a viewer, what's the implication of the recent WHO statement on airborne transmission? Does the Illinois guideline on reopening of child care facilities reflect the possibility of airborne transmissions? Not sure who wants to take that one.

That may be you, again, Dr. Bartlett, I'm sorry.

I was going to let you, but I'm happy to. This is-- hospital epidemiology Twitter is ablaze with controversy about this. And it really-- is an argument for argument's sake. Someone put a nice Monty Python clip on just having an argument for argument's sake. We make a big distinction artificially about what size particles are leaving your mouth. Are they big and they fall to the ground rapidly, are they small and they go a small distance? When of course, there's every size. And so really, rather than focusing on how long it's hanging around in the air, what we've seen from our lived experience is the vast majority of cases are not transmitted that way. And wearing a mask prevents either of those from happening.

And so people who have a lot of free time on their hands are welcome to go argue about it. I'll put my effort into reminding people to stay away from other people and wear their masks and wash their hands.

So Dr. Zhang, shields versus cloth masks-- that's another question we had from viewers. Personal preferences or is one actually better than the other? What are your thoughts on that?

Yeah, so I think when this all started masks was the way to go. And we didn't think about putting on face shields. And the difference is, the face shields, you know, gives us a little bit more protection for eyes. But in general, if everyone is wearing a mask, you know it-- the eye thing may not be as relevant. And so cloth masks should suffice.

Cloth masks, in and of themselves, have differences-- from mask to mask. It really depends on the layers within the mask itself. And there's also differences in the actual material that forms the cloth masks. Somethings like t-shirts, you know, when masks were being made by t-shirts, those may confer a little bit less protection compared to masks say made with higher thread counts.

And so there's differences within masks, as well. I understand you know for some people, masks, just for whatever reason, whether it's claustrophobia or whether it's really hot outside, and they really don't like something covering their face. A shield could also be a viable option, as well. I would say those are less commercially available. Correct me if I'm wrong, Dr. Bartlett, but generally speaking for the general public, cloth masks should suffice.

Sounds good. And Dr. Naylor, this is an interesting question. There's a lot to unpack on this one, but somebody clearly put a lot of thought into it. I want to get your thoughts on this. The question or comment from a viewer is, kids do not seem to have the burden or severity of COVID disease relative to adults, but public officials seem to continue to advocate policy that impact children based on adult-driven data. How can we better advocate for the children of Chicago to ensure appropriate policies that are more specific for kids? What are your thoughts on that one?

Yeah, so I'm putting some of my own interpretation on it, so hopefully I'm answering the question they're thinking of. You know, kids are expected to wear masks. Kids who are two and older and don't have a medical condition that would make it unsafe for them to do so, should be wearing their masks. And the reason for that, again, is when we're wearing a mask, we're protecting people from us.

If they're wearing a mask we're getting protected from them. And even if the burden of getting COVID or more likely the burden of having very symptomatic COVID seems lower in children, which is wonderful-- that's not usually how diseases go-- but they can spread it. And so the more people who have it, the more at-risk everybody is. So ultimately, it doesn't really matter if the population we're thinking of is at a lower risk for either getting it or getting severe disease, the more people who have it, the more everybody is at risk-- including children, who can have that outcome.

So we want everybody doing hand-washing, masking, and maintaining social distancing because that keeps everybody safe, including children who have that out.

We've got two more questions for viewers that I want to get to. We're about out of time, so we're going to do these quickly, if we can. The first one, and this is a viewer from Arizona, which is nice. We're in Arizona schools and schools are set to open soon. In the midst of our high numbers, would you keep your kids at home and learning online if you were in our shoes? Now that's-- I know that's kind of a tough thing to tell somebody to do one or the other, but I don't know? Do any of our physicians have thoughts on this? Arizona--

My parents live--

--it's kind of a hot spot.

My parent's live-- yeah. My parents live in Arizona and I wouldn't be sending my children. That's just me, personally, but I wouldn't be sending my daughter to daycare. I wouldn't be sending my older two daughters to school.

Excellent.

Not while it's a hot spot.

Final question, oh, now we've got two more, but we're going to do one more. I'm in need of a kidney transplant. Are you doing transplantation surgeries, or is COVID-19 still a priority?

So yes, COVID-19 is still a priority, in that this is a new normal and we're learning how to operate in these conditions. But absolutely, our medically necessary transplant program is up and running. And actually, we've been doing quite a few transplants, and got back to it sooner than many were. We really have built a strong environment around the institution of infection prevention for influenza, and Clostridium difficile, and all of the other hospital things. And this is something we've been training for all along.

We're wearing more goggles than we were before and eye-shields, but really, we are open for business in a way that is safe for the patients and safe for our health care workers. We have fewer visitors that we're allowing in, to just decrease the number of people around and make social distancing easy. But yes, we are absolutely open for business.

And I'm glad we got that question, because I think that is important to stress to people-- this is a very safe place and it's a safe place to come receive care. In fact, even the design of the buildings, which we talked about last time you were on the program, which you were you were instrumental in, is they're set up to make it safer. So it's a very safe place to be. If you do need care, you certainly shouldn't put it off, because that's important.

Absolutely.

That's all the time we have for the program. You all were fantastic. That was a lot of fun, a lot of good information today. We'll have another At the Forefront Live. That will be next week, so just remember to check out our Facebook page for our schedule of programs coming up in the future. And also, if you want more information about UChicago Medicine or COVID, please take a look at our website at Uchicagomedicine.org if you need an appointment, you can us a call at 888-824-0200. You can also schedule your video visits by going to the website.

Thanks, again, for being with us today, and I hope you have a great week.

[MUSIC PLAYING]

Allison Bartlett, MD

Allison Bartlett, MD, MS

Allison Bartlett, MD, MS, specializes in the medical management of acute and chronic infectious diseases. She also is working to improve the safety and efficacy of antibiotic use in children.

Learn more about Dr. Bartlett.