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Playtime is over: Coronavirus experts say it’s too soon for children to have playdates

Children at risk for additional COVID-19 complications

FILE - This Friday, March 20, 2020 file photo shows a closed sign near an entrance to a playground at an elementary school in Walpole, Mass., amid the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak. Child welfare agencies in the U.S. have a difficult mission in the best of times, and now they're scrambling to confront new challenges during the coronavirus outbreak. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)
FILE - This Friday, March 20, 2020 file photo shows a closed sign near an entrance to a playground at an elementary school in Walpole, Mass., amid the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak. Child welfare agencies in the U.S. have a difficult mission in the best of times, and now they're scrambling to confront new challenges during the coronavirus outbreak. (AP Photo/Steven Senne) (Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved)

Cabin fever has set in for many Floridians due to COVID-19. Some parents have had a rough go of quarantine life, with many having to balance their own jobs with the added responsibility of becoming classroom managers as their kids attend school virtually from home.

Some parents may be wondering if they can exhaust a bit of their child’s energy through a trip to the playground or a playdate with a friend. Unfortunately, though, health experts say it’s too soon to safely allow kids to play with friends as cases of coronavirus continue to rise in Florida.

[TIMELINE: The spread of coronavirus in Florida]

Emergency Medicine Physician Rajiv Bahl, MD, said that while kids are missing their friends and ability to socialize, the risks far outweigh the benefits when considering playdates.

“As children are having to stay indoors and practice social distancing as well, many parents are starting to question if it is OK to loosen restrictions on children. As difficult as it is, to make social distancing truly effective, there should not be any playdates as of yet,” Bahl said. " As more data and information comes out about the virus, children, including those that are very young, can develop the symptoms of COVID-19 or the more recent complication, Multisystem Inflmmatory Syndrome in Children (MIS-C)."

Under Gov. Ron Desantis’ plan to reopen the state, many outdoor areas, like state parks, have been opened to the public with added health and safety guidelines. Bahl said outdoor play is a good option for restless kids and parents.

“As total social distancing may not be a reality for all families, a good compromise may be playing outside. Outdoor playdates where one can create more physical distance allows for decreased transmission of the virus,” Bahl said. “This can include going for bike rides, a hike or even kicking a soccer ball.”

If you can’t keep your child away from a playdate, even though it is heavily advised against, Bahl said there are definite steps to take during and after a meetup to ensure the health of your child.

“Despite current recommendations, if you are going to go on a playdate, decreasing contact with germs is key. Packing extra hand sanitizer, using disinfectant wipes on shared surfaces, and directly supervising the type of play your children are having can be the difference between contracting the virus and not,” Bahl said. “After play, it is recommended that children take showers, hands are thoroughly cleaned, and clothing is laundered using the warmest appropriate water setting for garments.”

The prospect of summer vacation from school is likely weighing heavily on many busy parents who rely on summer camps to keep their children busy. Most camps have been canceled in ordered to prevent the further spread of the coronavirus.

However, there are many summer activities that children and parents can still enjoy with a few layers of added precautions.

“Activities that promote social distancing are most recommended. Some good examples of outdoor activities include bike rides, hikes and kicking a soccer ball,” Bahl said. “If your children are able to practice some social distancing, a pool that is maintained with chlorine or bromine is also a good choice. These chemicals help to inactivate the virus and can be a great way for children to enjoy the outdoors, burn some extra calories, and still enjoy a happy and healthy summer.”

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