For lots of people, the CDC’s new recommendation on face masks (you can ditch ‘em if you’re fully vaccinated) came as news worth cheering. But for parents, the announcement was more of a head-scratcher. With a vaccine for little kids still likely months away, that leaves children in a different boat than adults. So, though you may be ready to gleefully dunk your face masks into the trashcan, the reality is that your unvaccinated little ones are going to need to mask up a little longer.
Is it safe to bring your kids into public—and if so, do they need masks?
What we’re finding is that people who are fully vaccinated are very well protected against getting COVID and against becoming seriously ill with COVID. That means that if you’ve gotten your shots (and waited the two weeks for them to kick in), it’s safe to let down your guard—or, in this case, your mask.
But for little kids who aren’t eligible for the vaccine yet, it’s important that parents continue to take extra steps to protect them. Kids over 2 should continue to wear masks in public. Now, if everyone around them is vaccinated and/or masked, their risk of catching or transmitting COVID goes down a bunch. The problem is, at the grocery store, local diner, or museum, you don’t really know if the unmasked people around you are fully vaccinated. Your risk is, of course, greater in areas where the vaccination levels are lowest.
Throughout the pandemic, children have seemed to have been less affected by COVID than their older counterparts, but that doesn’t mean they’re immune to it. Even though kid cases relatively rare, we have seen cases where COVID can lead to serious complications, long-lasting symptoms (such as long-term loss of taste and smell), or even death. A mask provides an extra layer of protection, so for now, it’s best to keep masks on unvaccinated kiddos when you’re out and about.
Because young kids cannot be vaccinated yet, it’s also a good idea for tykes over 2 to continue to wear masks and practice other safety measures (frequently washing hands, keeping distance, etc) while at school.
Should my child still wear a mask outside?
The risk of spreading COVID appears to be much lower outside than inside, so as long as your child is playing outdoors somewhere where they can maintain some distance from other unvaccinated, unmasked people, it’s probably safe to go unmasked. However, at a crowded playground where it’s trickier to keep distance, it’s a smart idea to keep the mask on. Plus, at the very least, having a mask on keeps kiddos from touching their mouth and nose after pawing all over playground equipment, which reduces the spread of germs