Here's what I want you to know.
When the pandemic hit back in March, photographer and grad student Lydia Royce pulled her son out of day care and lost childcare for her infant son while she and her spouse, a chef, worked. Like so many working parents know, doing double duty is so hard. Royce was exhausted. She lost 10 pounds and was unable to take care of herself. So after seven weeks of burning the candle at both ends, Royce took her son back to day care.
But then, her 7-month-old son developed COVID-19. That's not something any parent wants to hear, but as day cares and schools across the United States reopen Royce wants other parents to hear her story.
"If a mom reads [this] article, I hope she takes some solace in the fact that day care transmission is still extremely rare, and the chances of a child getting [seriously] sick if they do catch it is also extremely rare," she tells Motherly.
Basically, while kids and babies can become seriously ill with COVID-19, most cases are in adults. As the Mayo Clinic notes, "while all children are capable of getting the virus that causes COVID-19, they don't become sick as often as adults. Children also rarely experience severe illness with COVID-19. Despite many large outbreaks around the world, very few children have died."
While children under the age of 1 are at a slightly higher risk than older children, they are still significantly less at risk than adults over the age of 20.
Royce tells Motherly: "The important thing if kids are in schools or day cares is to protect the vulnerable. I'm worried about the teachers and support staff at schools that are opening this fall. The kids will be fine. The teacher that's a year from retirement and has high blood pressure or diabetes might not be fine."
As first reported by Working Mother, Royce's son went back to day care in May and everything was fine for a time, but three weeks ago, he threw up in bed. And that was the first sign that he was sick. He had a mild fever as well, something Royce initially attributed to teething.
She kept him home from day care the next day, and the day after that she learned a parent of a baby in his class had tested positive for COVID-19, despite all the efforts the day care was making to follow health department guidelines, step up sanitization procedures and even adding temperature checks for everyone and face masks for most adults (some who worked with the babies went maskless for part of the day to ensure the babies could still see adult faces). Having a family in the day care community test positive meant all the babies, including Royce's son, needed to be tested. Royce's baby's test came back positive. Royce and her husband both tested negative.
"I did find out that the sick parent from day care wasn't ever sick—she was asymptomatic and notified of exposure so she got tested," Royce tells Motherly, adding that this asymptomatic parent and thier baby are still testing positive. "The other babies who initially tested negative are still negative. One teacher has re-tested and is now negative and the other is still waiting on results."
Unlike some other high profile cases of kids getting COVID, Royce's son never got very sick. Beyond throwing up that one night and having a mild fever, the 7-month-old has done well, and despite testing positive is "still doing well and has no symptoms."
Losing childcare for the second time was not ideal, but Royce has found a silver lining. "I'm back to juggling working and caring for my son, just like when I had pulled him from daycare earlier this spring. The difference now is that my husband is at home with us this time since he can't go back to work until we are all negative, so I do have way more help with the baby, which is nice," she tells Motherly. "He only got a week off when our son was born so it's nice that he's had more time with him and he's become a way more confident and capable parent. Their bond is absolutely precious."
Bottom line: Asymptomatic transmission can occur but day care is necessary for some families to survive and those families should know serious cases in infants are rare
Royce wants other moms to know that as scary as it sounds to say "my baby caught COVID-19 at day care" it has not been that bad of an experience for her, and it is rare. She also wants parents to take precautions if their children are in day care, because asymptomatic transmission can happen (as the situation at her day care proves).
She doesn't want parents to feel guilty if they need to send their kids back to day care right now if that is what their family needs to do, even if they do develop COVID-19. She stresses that keeping kids home indefinitely is a privilege that many working parents do not have.
Royce wants people to continue to socially distance and wear masks to prevent those who are most vulnerable to this disease while recognizing that healthy children are not at high risk.
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