My daughter-in-law Dr Karen Leis was on CBC News yesterday offering some important perspectives on sending Canadian children back to school in September. Karen is the Saskatchewan representative on the Canadian Paediatric Society Board of Directors.
It is still more than two months before schools will start their fall semesters and Karen reminds us two months in the COVID world is a long, long time. There is always new data coming out that may provide additional insights into how COVID-19 relates to children.
Karen says what we have learned so far is that children around the world have not been as negatively affected by the coronavirus as adults. In Canada, they account for less than one per cent of hospitalizations and there have been no deaths. Researchers will continue to discover more about if and how children may be transmitting the virus asymptomatically as well as symptomatically.
Karen says the Canadian Paediatric Society is asking governments to carefully consider the balance between the need for public health measures to combat COVID-19 with the risks that social isolation can present for children. While Karen was careful to point out that some children have thrived in isolation with their families she has also seen patients with anxiety, moodiness, behaviour problems and sleep issues related to the current crisis. She reminds us that for some at-risk children school is their safe space where they have relationships with adults they can trust.
Not all parents will feel comfortable sending their children to school in the fall, particularly children who may have chronic illnesses and families will need to make those decisions, perhaps in consultation with their health care provider.
Karen was asked about children using masks in her radio interview and she said while they are recommended for children over two years of age for short periods in specific situations, masks may not be as effective for children as adults because children tend to touch their masks more and adjust them more frequently. Masks also hinder children from seeing other people’s facial expressions and those expressions play a key role in effective communication.
In her radio interview, Karen emphasized that governments need to consult teachers as they plan for school re-opening and must make sure schools are provided with the resources they require to implement health guidelines.
Karen is a fine example of how dedicated health care providers are working hard to learn all they can about COVID-19 and offer the best advice possible to the public. I’m very proud of her.