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Emerging from the COVID-19 Pandemic: What’s Safe For Kids? 

We’re all seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, and the timing couldn’t be better. It’s been a pretty gloomy fourteen months, but many of us are hopeful as illness numbers drop and vaccine numbers rise here in Richmond and across the country. This means good things for our children, their health, safety, and development.

As a pediatrician, I’ve been most worried about my patients’ education and their social development since the start of the pandemic, especially for those aged two to five years old. We know that the early years are crucial for growing their brains for learning and building important social skills that will serve them well into adulthood. Now that we’re seeing the number of new cases drop and warmer months (and thus more time outside), I am now much more optimistic about what it means for our children.

I believe that school for all ages will be very safe by the time children will be expected to return this coming fall. Based on the data we’re seeing, children younger than ten years old are roughly 50 percent as contagious as other age groups with the COVID-19 virus. If kids in this age group do get ill, they typically have minimal symptoms. This makes elementary school and preschool a very safe option to get kids back in the classroom for their mental and emotional health. For children older than ten, the offering of vaccines is a welcome sight.

As you may know, vaccine emergency authorization is now allowing children twelve and older to get vaccinated. The Pfizer vaccine is presently available and the others should soon follow. Vaccine authorization for children older than six months of age should also be coming in the near future; I’m predicting sometime this fall or early winter.

With the warmer summer months upon us, and hopefully more time outside, the data has shown that outdoor activities can be safe for kids and adults alike. Activities like swimming, outdoor sports, summer camps, trips to the beach, hiking and even trips to amusement parks.

It is so important for all our children to be playing with their friends and back in school. The risks are dropping and safe “normal” existence is more possible than it has been these past 14 months. We hopefully have learned from this experience and will make our lives even better moving forward. If you have more questions, please talk to your pediatrician or contact me at 804-740-6171 or

Dr. Phillip Dawson is a Pediatrics Specialist with West End Pediatrics on Patterson Avenue in Richmond, Virginia. Dr. Dawson has been serving kids and families in Richmond’s West End for over 20 years. Learn more about Dr. Dawson at

Phillip Dawson, MD, is a pediatrician, husband, and father of three grown children. He lives in Richmond with his family and sees young patients and their adults at West End Pediatrics, an affiliate of Pediatric Partners of Virginia.

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