The worldwide COVID-19 pandemic understandably continues to leave parents and students with plenty of questions.
With that in mind, Norfolk Academy recently held two Zoom gatherings in which pediatricians from Children's Hospital of the King's Daughters provided information and advice about both the pandemic and how to make children more comfortable as they return to school.
While for Lower School families, the sessions provided help that parents with children of all ages might find useful. Lower School Guidance Counselor Katie Aladj hosted the sessions, during which Dr. Fred Fink '73, Dr. Paige Frazer '89, and Dr. Dana Ramirez offered data and answered questions.
The doctors started with important COVID-19 definitions, data, and symptoms. Among them:
- The most common symptoms for children up to age 9 are fever, cough, and shortness of breath. Headache, runny nose, and diarrhea are among the other symptoms. Loss of smell and taste are rare among young students.
- The virus spreads most often through respiratory droplets, which travel via coughing, sneezing, singing, and through other secretions.
- Students are more at risk when they've been in close contact with someone who has COVID-19. Close contact is considered being within 6 feet of the person for more than 15 minutes.
- In the United States, children up to age 17 make up 22 percent of the population, but 9.3 percent of COVID-19 cases. As of late August, no children in the state of Virginia had died as a result of COVID-19.
What can be done to reduce the risk of testing positive for COVID-19?
- The doctors emphasized the importance of wearing a mask, keeping a safe social distance from others, washing and cleaning hands regularly, and constantly screening your children for symptoms. It is crucial that anyone exhibiting symptoms remain home, they said.
Academy is requiring everyone to wear masks as it opens campus, and has set up classrooms in ways that follow state guidance on social distancing. Teachers have been providing time for hand cleaning. The school also is checking temperatures each morning with thermal scanners, sending anyone registering 100.4 degrees or higher to the nurse's office for evaluation.
Children might easily understand their expectations if parents encourage the 3 W's, the doctors said.
- Wear a mask (which covers mouth and nose).
- Wash your hands.
- Watch your distance. An easy way to estimate 6 feet is to spread your arms and fingers wide and make sure you're not touching anyone.
These are changes from the norm, and it's inevitable that some children will be anxious, the doctors said. What can parents do for comfort?
- Keep in touch with loved ones. Zooming with a grandparent or friend at risk can be calming.
- Be open about your own feelings and talk about how you are managing emotions.
- Look forward, offering reassurance that scientists are working hard on a vaccine and the situation will get better.
- Offer compassion more often. Hugs and saying "I love you" can go a long way.
- Continue basic health habits: Get plenty of sunshine and exercise, eat healthy meals, and manage screen time.
More than a dozen resources related to the CHKD presentation are available on Academy's COVID-19 updates page. This page also has the school's latest scheduling information, letters to families, and medical websites.
Please read more about the safety measures Academy has implemented, many of which will continue to be valuable after the pandemic has subsided.