"Hunker down" to help stop COVID-19 spread during holidays, CHOP PolicyLab expert says

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia PolicyLab set off a firestorm on Wednesday by recommending more restrictions amid the resurgence in COVID-19 cases, including having more schools go virtual.

The director is now urging people not to panic, but hunker down as much as possible as we head into the holidays.

He says rather than look at restrictions as being ongoing or indefinite, let's just focus on getting through the next six to eight weeks and doing what we can to protect as many people as possible.

Dr. David Rubin, director of the PolicyLab at Children's Hospital, isn't recommending a lockdown but does say we need to take serious precautions starting next week - and especially seven to 10 days before and then after the holiday.

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Measures include reducing gathering size, maintaining limited capacity at restaurants, moving more kids to virtual learning and more non-essential employees to work from home.

"If we can do that we can minimize what is an expected big surge following Thanksgiving," Dr. Rubin said, adding "The Rose Garden event earlier this year taught us that just drive-by testing the Tuesday before Thanksgiving is falsely reassuring."

Our local hospitals are not at capacity now, but he says that could change if we're not careful.

"We're looking at the Midwest where we have many hospitals that are overrun out there, and we don't ever want to be in that position. And I think if we all do this we can manage the worst part of this pandemic, which is the next eight weeks or so," he said.

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Still, he says there is flexibility: more emphasis should be on keeping younger kids or kids with special needs in school. Younger children have a lower rate of transmission than kids in middle and high school.

But he says activities outside of school, including those related to sports, need to stop.

"I don't think we've done well, in many of our travel sports leagues, to really focus on, you know, the carpools and how we manage kids off the field and the parties we're having on the weekend. And we've seen a lot of transmission in those types of events," Rubin said.

As for child care centers, he says the precautions they're taking are helping to reduce risk. And the staff at the centers should be considered essential because many are taking care of kids whose parents are healthcare workers.

For parents who can keep kids home, he recommends it at least for a few weeks.
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