B.C. doctor gives advice to parents as students prepare to head back to school in the fall
VANCOUVER -- Most B.C. students will be heading back to school for full-time, in-class learning in September, but some parents are still concerned about their health and safety.
Minister of Education Rob Fleming and Dr. Bonnie Henry announced Wednesday the plan for the fall, saying students will be divided into "learning groups" to reduce their contact with others.
CTV Morning Live spoke with family physician Dr. Melissa Lem to get tips for parents as the new school year approaches.
Below is part of a four-minute interview, which has been edited for length and clarity.
Jason Pires: We've been told children aren't transmitters of COVID-19, or don't get it as severely. What's the latest research on this?
Dr. Melissa Lem: Thankfully the research on kids is reassuring. So not only are kids at much lower risk of getting seriously sick from COVID-19, but they're actually more likely to catch it from adults instead of the other way around.
Unlike colds viruses or the flu, where kids can be super spreaders, COVID-19 doesn't seem to be quite the same, especially if you are under 10 years old. This recent study from Korea showed that kids under 10 are half as likely transmit it, possibly because they're smaller and shorter so they exhale less air and their droplets don't spread as far.
But that said, the same research showed that kids 10 to 19 years old may be as or more likely to spread it than adults, possibly because they tend to socialize more without physical distancing. So that's an age group we want to watch a bit more carefully.
Pires: Should kids be wearing masks in class? Will your child be wearing a mask?
Lem: He definitely is. So in her briefing yesterday, Dr. Bonnie Henry did recommend that children wear masks in all situations or at school where they can't maintain physical distancing. Research does suggest that masks are an effective way for us to protect each other.
Parents are actually mostly behind this. So in a recent poll, 73 per cent supported mandatory masks for kids at school. That said, the province has said that masks will not be required for students or staff because there are some situations where wearing a mask might not be appropriate, like if the child has a developmental condition … or a medical condition.
Pires: Any tips for encouraging children to wear a mask?
Lem: Number one, start early. Number two, make it fun. So if your child doesn't like wearing mask, you can start by practising at home for a few minutes, during a fun activity where they're kind of distracted and then gradually build up the amount of time.
You can get play masks for their toys, you can let them choose the fabric for their masks when you're sewing them at home or back-to-school shopping and also remember that role modelling is important so always wear a mask yourself in crowded or public situations and show your kids pictures of their favourite cartoon characters or celebrities or other heroes wearing masks.
Pires: What about kids who might be anxious about going back?
Lem: Some kids might be really anxious because they've been away and they've been in their bubbles for so long.
So for older kids, you want to be sure you listen empathetically to their worries and then help them problem solve by coming up with active plans for stressful situations that may be real or may be imagined.
In terms of younger kids, if you have been minimizing your social interactions, start opening them up safely. So think about enrolling them in an outdoor summer activity or booking outdoor play dates. You can also walk or drive by their school every day to get them used to that idea of going back. Also talk about their good memories of school, their preschool to get them excited about it.
And don't forget to take care of your own mental health, because kids do pick up on our cues.
Watch the full interview in the video player above.