How parents are trying to keep their unvaccinated kids safe as Delta variant spreads

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California’s been reopened for almost a month, but the Delta variant is highly contagious and spreading. The CDC estimates that it is now the dominant strain in the U.S. 

Close to 60% of all Californians are vaccinated. In LA County, 60% of all residents are fully vaccinated, including children ages 12 and over. 

But if you’re a parent of a child under age 12, navigating the world can still feel unsettling. Should you eat indoors with your kids or bring them to the zoo? 

Jessica Besbris, a palliative neurologist at LA’s Cedars-Sinai Hospital and whose kids are ages 1 and 4, says she is concerned about the Delta variant. But when it comes to indoor activities and venturing out, she says that her family has been fairly strict. 

“Our 4-year-old knows that he wears his mask whenever we go anywhere,” says Besbris. “He knows to give ... people plenty of room when they are passing. And we’re very cautious about who we interact with. And I don’t think that is going to change regardless of what variant is floating around, until my children themselves are eligible to be vaccinated.” 

She has made the decision to allow her 4-year-old to attend camp this summer — with rigorous testing and constant mask wearing. She adds, “It’s sort of a day-to-day decision, meaning we’re always looking at the case rates.” Besbris says that she will consider taking her kids to the mall or to eat indoors once they are vaccinated. 

Dr. Marcy Hardart, a pediatrician at Tenth Street Pediatrics in Santa Monica, says, “The best way to protect our children is to have them surrounded by vaccinated people as much as possible.”

Hardart adds that if everyone in the family is vaccinated, “having kids go to school, having kids go to camps — it’s not zero risk, but it’s a fairly low risk. So I think it’s reasonable to have them go, and I think that it’s important for them to have that social interaction in their lives.” 

Young kids are far less likely to get very sick from COVID-19 than older people. But Hardart warns that the Delta variant is an unknown. “So it’s something we have to keep watching.” 

She urges kids to still wear masks indoors and maintain distance, though they should be allowed to play with one another. 

In the meantime, she hopes that everyone gets vaccinated if they can. The rates among children are still low, and she says, “We’re not seeing a lot of child-to-child transmission, but we’re keeping an eye out to see if that changes with the Delta variant.”