The news has been flooded lately with reports about the highly contagious Delta variant, which now makes up more than 82 percent of COVID-19 cases in the U.S., according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Currently, 58.1 percent of eligible Americans have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, but the vaccine still isn’t authorized for children under the age of 12. That raises some huge questions for parents — and experts say it should.
“Delta has really changed things,” Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease specialist and professor at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, tells Yahoo Life. “It was bad before, but it’s gotten worse, and it has involved more young adults and children.” There are a few things Schaffner and other doctors recommend that parents keep in mind when it comes to keeping your children safe from the Delta variant.
Everyone in your household should be masked up in indoor public spaces.
Schaffner echoes the CDC’s latest guidance on wearing masks in indoor public spaces, pointing out that everyone in your family should mask up — regardless of vaccination status — if the spread of COVID-19 is substantial or high in your area.
“If you’re going out to public spaces, everyone should be wearing a mask,” he says.
Dr. Daniel Ganjian, a pediatrician at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, Calif, agrees. “Wearing masks whenever any of you are in indoor public spaces can prevent you from getting the disease,” he says. “Even if you’re vaccinated, you can get the virus.” And, he points out, emerging data suggests you can still be a carrier of the virus, even if you’re vaccinated and don’t have symptoms. “In case you’re a carrier, we want to make sure you don’t spread it to others, including your children,” he says.
Reconsider allowing unvaccinated people in your home.
Having unvaccinated people inside your house automatically raises the risk that you and your child will be exposed to the virus, Schaffner says. “Why would you have unvaccinated guests in your home?” he says. “We wouldn’t permit that in our house.”
If you do happen to have unvaccinated people in your home, Ganjian says you should have them wear masks. But again, if you can avoid this, Schaffner recommends that you keep unvaccinated people outdoors.
Indoor playdates are iffy right now.
“I really encourage outdoor playdates,” Dr. Richard Watkins, an infectious disease physician and professor of internal medicine at the Northeast Ohio Medical University, tells Yahoo Life. But, he says, if kids need to come inside your home, “they should be wearing a mask.”
That’s especially true if COVID-19 spread in your area is high, Schaffner says. “If you are in a very high intensity transmission area and if you have any concerns about the vaccination status of their parents, I would be very wary of that now that Delta is out there,” he says.
Ganjian agrees. “Especially now that it’s summertime and we have the luxury of good weather — have more outdoor time,” he says.
Everyone over the age of 12 in your household should be vaccinated.
Experts stress the importance of this. “You want to get as many people in your household vaccinated as possible because it prevents them from getting sick and prevents the spread of the disease to the people around them,” Ganjian says, noting that you can essentially develop herd immunity in your house.
“Ninety-nine percent of people hospitalized with COVID-19 now are unvaccinated,” Ganjiain says. “You don’t want your family to become part of that statistic.”
Watkins echoes the sentiment. “Parents got kids vaccinated before COVID,” Watkins says. “How is this different?”
Overall, Schaffner urges parents to do whatever they can to keep their children safe from the Delta variant. “Increasingly, Delta is seeking out the unvaccinated population in our country,” he says. “We all have to notch it up.”