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How much COVID-19 risk is there in these common fall activities for kids?

·5 min read
 (CBC News - image credit)
(CBC News - image credit)

Autumn officially begins this week, all while Saskatchewan is dealing with the fourth wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The highly infectious Delta variant continues to be an issue in the province and children under the age of 12 are at risk due to being ineligible for any of the COVID-19 vaccines.

CBC Saskatchewan spoke to Dr. Ayisha Kurji, a pediatrician in Saskatoon and an assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of Saskatchewan, to find out the risk levels of classic fall activities for kids.

"We know that in general most kids do well with COVID. But there are still kids who get really sick and end up in the hospital, end up in the ICU and end passing away or end up with long COVID symptoms. And all of that can be really devastating for a child and a family, of course," said Kurji.

"So I think we all need to be really cautious and figure out what our priorities are with our activities."

Kurji suggests parents decide what their children need and then weigh the risks and benefits of the activities they typically do in the fall.

While Saskatchewan broke many pandemic records over the past week, Kurji says children need to have a safe outlet that allows them to get exercise, entertainment and social activity.

CBC News
CBC News

"We have to remember that COVID is not just about the respiratory distress, it's also about the mental health impact on our kids. And we've seen devastating outcomes to children: depression, anxiety, eating disorders. And all of that is something we need to play into and think about," Kurji said.

"So keeping in mind our own children, and we all know our own children best ... trying to figure out what activities they need. To keep themselves safe and healthy and do those as safe as possible."

High-risk activities

Dr. Kurji says carpooling and taking your children to the movie theatre are high-risk activities.

"Anytime that you're in a shared inside space, and I would say a car is an inside space, you're increasing your risk. So trying to keep that as limited as possible, knowing the vaccine status of the other families that you're ride-sharing with."

Kurji says for many families with working parents, carpooling can be a necessity. She says if carpooling is a must, make sure it's the same group of people so you can do your own contact-tracing in case someone gets sick.

"Whether it's keeping track of it on your phone or on a calendar, knowing who exactly who you've been in contact with and also keeping that number really small so that you're decreasing your risk."

CBC News
CBC News

Meanwhile, Hollywood is open for business and more films are being released in theatres. While streaming is readily available, some children may be eager to return to gawk at the big screen.

"I think right now it's safe to assume with our numbers being so high that there's probably COVID in most of the places that we're going," Kurji said.

"So if you're inside and are sharing airspace, your risk of catching it goes up. With movies comes popcorn. And that means taking your mask off often."

Medium-risk activities

Saskatchewan had a warm weekend. But the warmth will be gone very soon and many families will want to take their children into libraries to gather their favourite stories and find new and exciting characters.

Kurji admits libraries are a tricky topic.

"Again, it's that shared indoor air space, it does put your risk up. Having said that, the benefits of books are clear," she said.

"So lots of hand-washing and wearing a mask. And when you're in there, making your trip as short as possible."

CBC News
CBC News

And then there are grocery stores. Many families cannot avoid taking their children with them to crowded stores. Kurji says be choosy about the times you go, if possible for you and your schedule.

"Taking your time over the day to go so that you're trying to minimize the number of people that are there. So whether it's earlier in the morning or later in the evening or middle of the day. Because we get it ... you have to eat, right? So just making sure that wherever you can, you're mitigating your risk."

CBC News
CBC News

Children need fun and tradition is a big part of that. Corn mazes and pumpkin patches during the fall-time scream tradition and a good family time. But those spots can get busy.

"I would applaud families for picking outdoor right and trying to make sure that they're safe. I would say if there's going to be a lot of people there and your kids are not vaccinated, you can't control what other people do in terms of distancing and things like that. So still wearing masks is a good idea."

CBC News
CBC News

Dr. Kurji says parents should make sure their children avoid touching things and constantly use hand sanitizer.

"The biggest things are going to be keeping your distance from people and keeping your mask on. So whether that means if you have little kids, you're doing your snack before you do the pumpkin patch and after right or whatever activity you're doing."

Low-risk activities

Kurji says, as a mother, she has been keeping her children at home as much as possible. But she says her family has found some fun outdoor activities that keeps them excited.

CBC News
CBC News

Kurji says geocaching has been great for her kids. Geocaching is a global treasure hunt where people look for caches, or hidden stashes of objects, using GPS.

She also suggests nature walk scavenger hunts, sidewalk chalk, bubbles and park play dates with other children inside your family's bubble.

CBC News
CBC News
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