Q: It’s finally fall, and my kids are back in school. Can we start seeing friends and doing sports & lessons?
A: There are ways to make socializing safer and SMARTer if you remember that reducing your risk of contracting COVID-19 adds up—it is NOT all-or-nothing. You and your family can use a “risk budget” to think about planned activities and decide what feels comfortable for you.
Your risk budget – the amount of risk you are able to “spend” – is personal to you and your family’s risk tolerance, factoring in things like if you have a household member in a high-risk category.
Like any good financial budget, you have to start by understanding what you feel comfortable “spending.”
Luckily, we have some Nerdy Girl input on this very topic – Drs. Malia Jones, Alison Buttenheim, Sandra Albrecht, and Lindsey Leininger have all been in the news lately to discuss back-to-school and managing their families’ risks (full articles linked below).
In these pieces, experts share more tips for thinking about your child’s school plan (virtual, hybrid, or full day in-person) and planning to protect your risk budget throughout the fall, inside and outside of the school building. Here are a few highlights of the articles linked below:
1. HOW MUCH DISEASE IS IN YOUR AREA: This is probably the top consideration for ANY activity outside of what is required, like in-person school or shifts at work. Think of this like the bottom of your Jenga game – if you pull out this piece, the whole tower can come crashing down! You and your family are safer when the rates of new COVID-19 cases are low in your community, and we want to keep this as low as possible to help schools stay open safely – for the benefit of all of the children in our communities.
2. SAFER ACTIVITIES: If you are doing some socializing outside of school, it’s time to work on making those visits safer! Following the SMART principles (link and photo below) can help create ways for your kids and teens to see their friends outside of school while keeping a thrifty risk budget. Keeping gatherings small, outside, and adding physical distance and masks are all ways to support safer visits for your kids.
3. BACKUP PLANS: Uncertainty is queen during this pandemic. Protect your budget by building backup plans for your family and knowing what your school’s plan is for handling positive cases and potential exposures at school. Create a communication plan with your contacts outside of your household in the event that you learn that you (or your child) have been exposed.
We all know that getting back to school and work makes things feel “normal” in a very abnormal time, which is probably a big relief. However, the risk is still out there, and we can’t let our SMART principles slip after we’ve worked so hard to practice them! Now is a good time to take stock of your risk budget with the help of the NGs in the links below.
We’re all rooting for you and your family this year!
Those Nerdy Girls
Working Mother Magazine article on back-to-school plans
Time Magazine article on back-to-school plans
Boston Globe panel on safer socializing this fall
Dear Pandemic Q&A from 9/26 on SMART principles