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Are sleepovers safe? How to plan gatherings for kids as COVID-19 cases rise in Colorado

Children's Hospital doctor offers advice
boy and birthday cake
Posted at 6:20 AM, Sep 14, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-14 08:20:04-04

A month since school began in Colorado, the highest rates of COVID-19 transmission are among school-aged children. Most schools are now requiring students to wear masks inside buildings, but that leaves questions about how to approach gatherings outside of school.

Dr. Suchitra Rao, a pediatric infectious disease specialist at Children’s Hospital Colorado, said parents should apply many of the same principles we’ve learned since the beginning of the pandemic.

“Trying to maximize time outside, when you're indoors try to stick to sort of smaller groups of people, and mask wearing,” Dr. Rao said.

During a news conference last week, the state’s chief epidemiologist Rachel Herlihy noted that unvaccinated students are facing increasing risks outside of school as well.

“With as high as transmission is in our state right now, it is a pretty risky time to bring unvaccinated children to large gatherings,” Herlihy said.

Dr. Rao said it’s important to make sure nobody is experiencing COVID-19 symptoms before bringing kids together. As for sleepovers — those may still be safe, but hours matter.

“We know the longer time you spend with someone who is infected, the greater your risk of contracting the virus,” she said.

Dr. Rao supports in-person learning and said it is important for children to spend time with friends.

“Kids need to be in school, they need to be socialized, they need to be getting out there. And so it's going to be very challenging for parents to sort of navigate those rules about what they can or can't do,” she said.

Ultimately, she said it will come down to parents deciding what level of risk they’re comfortable accepting and considering if family members have any conditions that make them more vulnerable to the virus.

“A lot of those decisions are going to end up being based upon the individual family and their circumstances,” Dr. Rao said.