Michigan Association of Health Plans

Cutting through the confusion about kids, teens and COVID-19 exposures

It’s pretty confusing to be a parent of a school-age or preschool child right now.

Are your kid’s sniffles and fever an early sign of COVID-19? Or just a cold or allergies? What should you do next?

Or what if they’re feeling fine, but your school, their friend’s parents, or the soccer coach says someone your child has been around has COVID-19?

Or what if you find out that your teen’s friend is sick but your teen didn’t think – or want – to tell you?

These questions have gotten more urgent in recent weeks. Cases of COVID-19 in children are rising fast, with nearly one-third of new cases now happening in young people. School and activities are in full swing, but COVID-related mask and quarantine policies vary from district to district. Flu season looms. And there’s still no COVID vaccine authorized for kids under 12, though one is probably coming later this fall. Meanwhile, vaccination is lagging in teens and adults in some communities, and clinics and hospitals are jammed with COVID and more.

Even if a child or teen doesn’t get seriously ill from coronavirus, they can spread it to others who could. That will make the pandemic last even longer for all of us.

Plus, whenever a child has to stay home in quarantine, that can affect their schooling. It can also affect their parents’ ability to work – especially in the frontline jobs that keep our society running.

“Because of the way this disease spreads, through the air, and because the Delta variant of this coronavirus is even easier to catch, it’s up to all of us to take steps including appropriate masking, distancing and vaccination, and to share information about infections in a timely way,” said Emily Somers, Ph.D., an epidemiologist who is a professor of internal medicine at Michigan Medicine and an advisor to her daughters’ school district on COVID-19 prevention. “The more we do, the better our children’s chances of being able to attend school in person without interruption, and the faster we can be done with this pandemic.”

So, here’s a handy guide for parents on what to do about quarantine, isolation, masking, testing and sharing information with others, based on the latest evidence.

Answer the questions below to get guidance for different situations. This guide is based on information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, but local school districts may have additional or slightly different guidance; check with your school administration to be sure.

This article originally appeared in the UM Health Blog. Read the FAQs here

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