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Coronavirus: I have a parent in a B.C. care home. Should I send my kid to school?

Last Updated Aug 26, 2020 at 11:06 am PDT

A empty classroom is pictured at Eric Hamber Secondary school in Vancouver, B.C. Monday, March 23, 2020. The British Columbia government is set to announce its updated plan for a safe return for public schools during the COVID-19 pandemic. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Summary

It's up to every family to find its own balance with COVID-19 risk, experts say

Make sure kids understand why it's important to follow COVID-19 precautions: medical geographer

NEWS 1130 is working hard to get you the information you need about the COVID-19 pandemic.

When you have questions, NEWS 1130 Gets Answers.

Question:

I have a kid set to return to school in September and a parent in long-term care. I’m worried my child could bring the coronavirus home and then pass it on to his grandparent. Should I send my kid to school?

Answer:

There are no hard-and-fast rules for keeping your family safe in this particular situation, but the experts do have some advice to help reduce the risk.

After visitors were banned from long-term care homes across B.C. in March, the province announced at the end of June people could start seeing their loved ones in-person once again, with new restrictions.

Students are set to return to class this September, also under new restrictions and protocols.

“As class resumes in the fall, parents need to make the decisions that are right for their families and that they are comfortable with,” B.C. Ministry of Health spokesperson Shannon Greer said in an email.

Like everyone else, students should isolate at home if they’ve come into contact with a confirmed COVID-19 patient, she said.

“In general, children are much less likely than adults to catch, spread, or have severe illness from COVID-19. In B.C., children have had a much lower rate of COVID-19 infection than adults.”

But, Greer said, families may still want to take extra precautions to keep their oldest members healthy.

“That may mean having their child participate in Zoom calls with a grandparent in a care home, rather than visit in person,” she said.

Tom Koch, a UBC professor of medical geography, said his advice for a family in this situation would depend on the child’s age and the state of COVID-19 cases and protocols at their school.

But he said he would probably advise the family to send the kid to school while ensuring they follow all the physical distancing, mask-wearing and other precautions.

“He or she should be informed that this is for his, his parents and his grandparents’ protection,” Koch said.

Michael Curry, a clinical assistant professor at UBC, said the scenario presented here presents “a tough question and one many families will be facing this fall.”

“Sending your child to school is definitely putting them at some degree of risk of contracting COVID-19,” he said, but the same can be said of making a trip to the grocery store.

“It is a balancing act – there is nothing in life that is truly risk-free. People need to decide whether the risk of contracting COVID-19 is outweighed by the social, educational and possibly economic benefits of having your child in school,” he said.

“A family with two grandparents at home, who has a child that works well independently and can focus on online resources is in a different position than a family with a single parent that works two jobs to make ends meet and has a child with a learning disability.”

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