Navigating the pandemic is tough, but one way to keep up on news and trends is through webinars hosted by Boston Children’s Hospital.
In a webinar held last week — “Healthy and Safe Child Care during COVID-19” – a panel of speakers discussed the current challenges of the pandemic as well as some of the progress that’s being made. The webinar featured four speakers and was moderated by Amy O’Leary, Strategies for Children’s director of the Early Education for All Campaign.
Here’s a summary of what was discussed:
Dr. Ana Vaughan-Malloy, the associate medical director of Infection Prevention and Control at Children’s, shared the latest data from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health’s COVID-19 Interactive Data Dashboard.
Since early January, she noted, the numbers of virus cases as well as virus-related deaths have all gone done. And while there is an increase in the number of children ages 0-19 who have been infected, Dr. Vaughan-Malloy says this is probably due to increased testing. She also points out that among children who are infected, there are very few hospitalizations.
She discussed the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, pointing out that they do not contain live virus, so they cannot cause recipients to become infected. Both vaccines can have side effects, including fatigue, muscle aches, and headaches. But they only last for a day or two. These symptoms are a sign that “your body is reacting properly to the vaccine.”
“Vaccination is not the end of the road,” Vaughan-Malloy warned. Masking, social distancing, and hand hygiene will have to continue.
There’s more information on Boston Children’s Hospital’s COVID-19 resource page.
Donna Warner, the director of Children’s Child Care Center, is on the front lines providing care for children and working with families.
“It’s hard, and it’s exhausting,” she says of the work of keeping everyone safe and informed. “We are staying hypervigilant.”
The early educators who work with Warner have severely limited face-to-face interactions with each other, diminishing what had been a lively social workplace. And Warner listens carefully to her staff, so she can help them cope with the inevitable feelings of anger, sadness, anxiety, and fear that arise.
Warner and her team make every effort to celebrate small things and important things – which includes one sad milestone. “In March, a team member will celebrate her second Covid birthday.”
Because Warner’s program is in a hospital, her staff have access to the vaccine. But some staff members of color are concerned about the vaccine and are wary of the historical mistreatment that African-American and Latinx patients have received from the medical system. Warner, in response, created a safe space where her team could meet with doctors and ask questions. The result: 90 percent chose to get vaccinated.
For Chandreka Wright, one of the early educators at Children’s, working during the pandemic meant managing her own fears about health and job security, while meeting the needs of children. When the program was shut down, she led Zoom circle times. Once the program reopened in June, she adapted to the whirlwind of safety rules and guidelines.
“I had to attempt to socially distance nine young toddlers,” she explains. “I miss the joys of playing with the kids freely.” She also misses the chance to chat with parents when they are dropping off or picking up their children.
As for the vaccine, Wright says, “It took a lot of self-reflection to come to the decision” to take it. She worried that scientists might not have taken women of color, like her, into account. So when she went to the meeting with doctors who were discussing the vaccine, she asked a lot of questions and decided for herself that getting vaccinated was the right step.
Across Massachusetts, early education and care providers will become eligible for vaccines as the state moves further along in phase 2, which began this month with group 1: individuals ages 75 and older. Early educators, K-12 teachers, and many other groups of workers are scheduled for phase 2, group 3. Visit Mass.gov for details.
Wrapping up the webinar, Dr. Faye Holder-Niles, Children’s medical director of Community Primary Care, talked about moving forward.
“In primary care, we continue to be a resource and support for families,” Holder-Niles says, an important reminder that pediatricians are playing a crucial role in helping families manage during the pandemic. Telehealth appointments have been a key tool in meeting children’s and families’ needs, and so has “open and honest communication.” That’s why, Holder-Niles says, it’s important for early education and care providers to encourage families to talk to pediatricians. Holder-Niles also discussed the importance of continuing routine vaccines, including the flu shot.
“The pandemic has been tough on us as grown-ups, and it’s also been tough on kids,” Holder-Niles adds, which is why mental health services remain an important resource.
To learn more, please check out the webinar.