Is it safe to see my grandparents when I go back to school?

CBC Kids News • Published 2020-09-02 07:53

Staying physically distanced might be the best option, experts say

A few weeks ago, Kiera Krogstad hugged her grandparents for the first time since March.

Now, she might have to wait several more months before she feels comfortable enough to hug  them again.  

“It’s really hard. It’s definitely something I thought I’d never have to do,” she said from her home in Saskatoon. 

Kiera, 16, still hasn’t decided if she will attend in-person classes this fall because she’s nervous that it could increase the risk of spreading COVID-19 to her grandparents, who live with her family.

If she does go back to school, she said, she would avoid any physical contact with them until at least 2021. 

You may also be wondering if it’s safe to see your grandparents when you go back to school.

Most experts say yes, but you should be careful.

A teacher in class in class, teaching to students with a mask on.

While some students started school as early as Aug. 21, most students across Canada go back to school next Tuesday. (Image credit: Eric Gaillard/Reuters)

Can I still see my grandparents?

If you’re returning to in-person classes, experts say, staying physically distanced from your grandparents when you’re in the same room might be a good idea, especially if there’s an outbreak at your school.

While that doesn’t mean cutting off contact with them completely, it might mean sitting on opposite sides of the room when you’re together and trying to stay at least two metres apart.

Staying outside for visits would also help reduce the risk of spreading the virus, Dr. Sumon Chakrabarti, an infectious diseases specialist at Trillium Health Partners in Toronto, told CBC Kids News.

Can I hug my grandparents?

In Canada — at least right now — there’s a lower risk of community spread than there was in March, Chakrabarti said.

That means there aren’t a lot of cases of COVID-19 in most cities and towns.

And even if you do get COVID-19, if you’re careful, the risk of spreading it to people in your household who aren’t your immediate caregivers is lower than you would think, Chakrabarti added.

Students with backpacks walking in front of a school.

Right now in Canada, the risk of contracting the virus through people in your community (including classmates) is much lower than it was in March, experts say. (Image credit: Robert Michael/dpa)

Chakrabarti said Canada is actually in a “really good spot” because people know what precautions to take every day, such as wearing masks and physically distancing.

There are also plans in place if there are outbreaks in schools.

What kids and grandparents should avoid, he said, is prolonged contact in an enclosed space.

That means sitting around the same table and eating a meal together is not a great idea.

Chakrabarti said giving your grandparents a hug is actually OK if they’re in your bubble, especially if you’re outside in an open space.

“It’s very low risk for a kid who’s going to school to see their grandparents,” he said.

But he warned that things could change quickly.

What if I live with my grandparents?

If you live with your grandparents and you’re going back to school, many experts agree that staying in your bubble and limiting your contacts outside of school will help minimize the risk.

It might also be best to stay in separate rooms at home when possible.

Otherwise, wearing a mask in public spaces, such as in school, can help prevent the spread.

There are also steps your grandparents can take.

Public Health Canada is encouraging people who can get really sick from the virus to talk to their doctor about their best options since everyone’s level of risk is different depending on their age and health condition.

A parent of guardian holding the shoulders of a child wearing a mask.

Regulations around kids and grandparents could change depending on whether or not there are outbreaks of COVID-19 in schools this fall, experts and health officials say. (Image credit: Brynn Anderson/Associated Press)

What if my grandparents pick me up from school?

If you don’t live with your grandparents but they pick you up from school, Chakrabarti said, you should all wear masks and keep the windows open.

You can also wash your hands with soap and sanitizer before and after the drive as an extra precaution.

What if I get COVID-19?

If you contract COVID-19, or even if you’re showing symptoms, it’s best to avoid any contact with your grandparents until you’re better.

“If someone is sick in the house … you just keep away from them,” Chakrabarti said. “Essentially spreading out at home.”

But that can be really hard to do if you live with your grandparents like Kiera does.

“A lot of it is wearing masks if we do come closer together and try really hard to social distance, as much as we can in the same household,” she said.

If she does go back to school, she plans to physically distance from them and try to stay in separate spaces as much as possible.

Do you have more questions about going back to school? Check these out:

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