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Are playdates still OK? Summertime guidance for parents and kids from PNW pediatricians

Robert F. Bukaty
The Associated Press


As we move into the heart of our Pacific Northwest summer, families with children are facing a dilemma: what to do with kids, cooped up for months, and itching to see friends. 

COVID-19 cases are rising in Washington, but experts say it doesn’t mean kids need to stay on lockdown. 

Dr. Mary Fairchok, a pediatric infectious disease specialist at Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital in Tacoma, says parents need to consider four factors as they plan activities for kids: how much space they have to spread out, how many people are present, how long they are near one another and whether they are outside or inside. 

She says the riskiest activities are confined gatherings that last a while, such as an indoor birthday party. 

“The best type of an environment for adults and children would be something like the beach, or maybe like a hike or camping. That type of thing is going to be your absolute safest sort of activity,” Fairchok said, adding “with a reduced amount of people.”

Fairchok says early research suggests kids tend to get infected from adults more than from other kids. 

Counties in Phase 2 of Washington’s Safe Start plan allow small gatherings of up to five people outside of one’s household over the course of a week. Ideally, experts say, kids should play with one or two friends from trusted households, rather than many different playmates. 

Dr. Mollie Grow, a pediatrician at Seattle Children’s and the mother of two school-age kids, says parents have to weigh competing factors. 

“I think we are balancing safety and sanity for children and their parents,” Grow said. “I mean, children's health is thankfully not nearly as dramatically affected by COVID. However, we know that the people around them are certainly at risk.”

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Gabriel Spitzer is a former KNKX reporter, producer and host who covered science and health and worked on the show Sound Effect.