It’s another COVID summer, and Dr. Susanna Block gets it.
She gets the pandemic fatigue, the weariness of masking and keeping a distance and forgoing things we love.
But with vaccines not yet available for kids under 12, the Kaiser Permanente pediatrician urges everyone to stay vigilant and patient.
“I wish we were out of the woods, but I don’t think we are,” she said recently. “We need to get back to the core principles.”
That means for kids under 12 (and anyone unvaccinated): “They should continue to mask.”
That also means being cautious with social get-togethers and being outside as much as possible.
COVID summer: What is safe
So, what can families safely do this summer?
Block is a big proponent of being outdoors.
“I advise people to avoid indoor gatherings,” she said. “The key for summer fun is doing things outside: Go for a walk, meet at a park to play, go swimming outside.”
One thing that makes the doctor particularly uncomfortable: a bunch of people digging into a communal bowl of food at a picnic or playdate.
She is quick to offer a safer alternative: individually wrapped Popsicles.
What about families in which some members are vaccinated and others aren’t?
“I recommend having a family meeting to decide: What’s the strategy? That may be to decide to all wear masks in solidarity, to decide: We’re a family team; this is how we roll.” That could help counter a sense of unfairness in the 11-and-under set, she said.
And as for that unfairness, or just the fatigue after more than a year in a global pandemic? Dr. Block likes to remind people: “It’s not going to be forever, this is now.”
She also encourages kids (and grownups) to think of it this way: We’ve all developed a new superpower called resilience. It’s something that will help us throughout our lives.
She praises kids and families for being patient, taking precautions and following science. “We’re understandably tired of this, and it’s easy to let things slide.”
COVID summer: vaccine update
How much longer until more kids can be vaccinated? Block does not have an inside scoop but, echoing the patience theme, noted: “We’ve never developed a vaccine this fast.”
She said trials are being done on kids as young as 6 months old, but also: “We have to remember: Children are not little adults.”
“It will happen, but I don’t have a timeline. I wish I did.”
She urged everyone who is eligible to get vaccinated if they haven’t already. “I’m thrilled that middle- and high-schoolers can enter the fall vaccinated.”
And speaking of vaccines, there is growing concern about the routine vaccines that kids have been missing. Block urged parents to rectify that as soon as possible.
“People have – understandably – avoided coming in, and now kids are getting behind on other vaccines,” she said. This is a good time for a checkup and to catch up on vaccinations.”
Some providers are busy and scheduling a few months out. One way around this, at least in the Kaiser Permanente system, is kids can come in for shots without having a full checkup at the same time.
For more summer fun guidelines, Block recommends this CDC guidance that ranks activities as safest, less safe and least safe.