Dr. Amesh Adalja, a Pittsburgh-based infectious disease expert and a fellow of the Infectious Diseases Society of America, has been answering our questions throughout the coronavirus pandemic.
We asked him six more on Sunday. Adalja, who has published papers on pandemic preparedness in the New England Journal of Medicine, stresses that these are his personal opinions.
Doctors across the nation have differing takes on the play date question below. We understand Trib readers are divided on this issue. On Sunday, Pennsylvania Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine said play dates could spread help spread the covid-19 disease.
“As a pediatrician and as a parent, I know how hard this is, particularly with small children, but we do not want you to have play dates,” Levine said.
Dr. Asaf Bitton, a Boston-based primary care physician, wrote in Medium that parents should adhere to “no kid play dates, parties, sleepovers or families/friends visiting each other’s houses and apartments” during the outbreak.
Dr. Sean O’Learly, a member of the American Academy of Pediatrics committee on infectious diseases, told “Good Morning America” in-person get togethers should be discouraged.
Here are Adalja’s answers:
Question: With school being out and children getting restless, are play dates, small gatherings acceptable?
Answer: Social distancing is difficult, and there are no hard and fast rules for how to do it well. I, personally, think it is acceptable for small gatherings and play dates to occur so long as no one is sick, hand hygiene is practiced, and group size is a minimal. Saying these things is controversial. However, overall well-being, which includes some form of social interaction, should not be sacrificed.
Editor’s note: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued the following about play dates:
The key to slowing the spread of covid-19 is to limit social interactions as much as possible. Parents should minimize play dates, and if held, parents should keep the groups small. Advise older children to hang out in a small group and to meet up outside rather than inside. It’s easier to keep and maintain space between others in outdoor settings, like parks.
If you have small meetups, consider hanging out with another family or friend who is also taking extra measures to put distance between themselves and others (i.e. social distancing). Make sure children practice everyday preventive behaviors, such as cleaning and then disinfecting frequently touched surfaces. Remember, if children meet outside of school in bigger groups, it can put everyone at risk.
Q: There are mixed opinions from experts across the country about play dates. Some doctors call on parents to forbid play dates or other gatherings. Why do you believe this is safe?
A: In the midst of a community spreading respiratory virus, it is very important that people take social distancing measures. What form those take may vary from person to person and have to account for an individual’s overall well-being. What is essential to someone maybe nonessential to another. Even public health professionals I know are letting their kids have play dates with some modification — very small numbers, meticulous hand hygiene, outdoor activities, and excluding anyone with any degree of respiratory symptoms — and this is an approach I believe to be sustainable and in alignment with general voluntary social distancing recommendations.
Q: Should children avoid playgrounds?
A: Children can go to playgrounds so long as they practice good hand hygiene and they minimize crowding.
Q: Can you explain what herd immunity is?
A: Herd immunity refers to the level of resistance a community has to a specific infectious disease. For example, a community highly vaccinated against measles would have high herd immunity against it. Similarly, a community that has been infected to a high degree with the novel coronavirus may have some degree of herd immunity.
Q: Are there specific questions people should ask restaurants when ordering takeout food?
A: I do not believe there any specific questions people should ask when ordering takeout food, except for what the appropriate tip percentage should be for these individuals whose livelihood has been threatened by blanket shut down orders.
Q: Should we be showering more?
A: There is no reason to be showering more. Practicing good hand hygiene and not touching your face as much is adequate.
Ben Schmitt is a Tribune-Review assistant news editor. You can contact Ben at 412-320-7991, [email protected] or via Twitter .
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