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Expert Advice: Public Health Expert Answers Four Questions About COVID-19

Parenting in a pandemic brings up a variety of doubts. Our readers join caretakers across the globe with anxieties right now, some of which can be alleviated with science from a reliable source. 

Dr. Alder and Family
Dr. Steve Alder, professor of family and preventive medicine at the University of Utah, specializes in public health. He offered expert advice on four topics that matter to families at this critical period. 


Q.Questions about masks and their effectiveness loom large in parents' minds now. Should families use masks for going out in their neighborhoods, in public gatherings, or at school this fall?

A.  I doubt any of us realized that masks would become a new part of our wardrobes this year. 

While there are many types of masks that are used to help avoid infection, the ones that are most commonly used will help prevent the wearer from exposing those around them. This is important because people who have COVID-19 can infect others even if they don’t have any signs or symptoms of this illness. 

Mask use is recommended when people from different households are going to be around each other, especially if social-distancing (being able to stay at least six feet apart) is not possible. 

Schools around the country are working on plans for reopening, including whether masks are required, so it is important to stay in communication with your local school to know what they will be requesting from their students and visitors. 

Editor’s note: District guidance based on the guidance from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention is expected later this summer. 


Q. What precautions do you recommend for families at this phase of the pandemic?

A.Across the country, and throughout much of the world, communities are trying to find ways to function as normally as possible while trying to limit transmission of SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19). It is very important to keep updated on the guidelines that health leaders in your community are asking you to follow. 

In general, social distancing when possible, frequent hand-washing, wearing a mask that covers your mouth and nose – especially when social distancing is not possible – and staying home and isolated when feeling ill are recommended. It is also important to cover your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing and wash surfaces regularly, especially if they are touched by multiple people. A good source for up-to-date information regarding COVID-19, including how you can protect your family, can be found at  


Q.  If you could clear one up one myth about COVID-19 for families, what would that be? What do you wish parents better understood about the pandemic overall?

A.  There are no treatments or vaccines for COVID-19. There are a lot of ideas being shared about a variety of ways to either prevent or cure this disease, but to date, no treatment or preventive therapy has been fully tested for effectiveness. 

The best approaches for responding to the COVID-19 pandemic are to practice good preventive behaviors and stay healthy – healthy eating, staying active, getting enough sleep and washing hands frequently. 

Trying unproven approaches is risky, leading to severe health problems in some cases.

Q.  How can families best help support the work of frontline workers in their community?

A.  First and foremost, following guidelines for preventing the spread of COVID-19 and encouraging others to do the same is a way to be supportive. This approach will help limit the activity of the infection in their community and keep healthcare systems, and the frontline workers, from being overwhelmed. 

Frontline healthcare workers are amazing individuals who are dedicated to helping others stay as healthy as possible. Families can help them by reducing the number of people that need to be hospitalized at any one time due to COVID-19. 

The best thing we all can do is to do those things which will keep us healthy and then help those around us to stay healthy as well. 

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Tags: Health, Parenting, Safety

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