Parents of children who are not eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine should wear a mask or face covering, wash their hands frequently, and consider getting themselves vaccinated, state officials said Wednesday.
“As you know, the pandemic is not over,” acting Physician General Dr. Denise Johnson told reporters during a news conference at The Whitaker Center for Science & Arts, a children’s museum in Harrisburg. “COVID-19 vaccines are the best tools we have to protect against COVID-19 and any variants of the virus.”
While only children ages 12 and older are currently eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine, Johnson said those who are eligible to receive a vaccine getting inoculated can reduce the risk of transmission, providing children with more freedoms this summer and beyond.
“To protect them and give them the freedom to do things this summer we need everyone to get vaccinated,” Johnson said.
If children are not eligible to receive a vaccine, Johnson said the parents of young children should consider getting the vaccine.
“We have the power to stop the spread of this virus and keep ourselves, our children, friends and family safe by getting vaccinated,” Johnson said.
The Whitaker Center is open to the public and has welcomed the return of its summer camp programs for children.
Meghan Clark, chief operating officer for the Whitaker Center, said they still “strongly encourage” visitors to wear a mask since many of its young visitors are not eligible for a vaccine at this time.
“All of our summer campers are also strongly encouraged to wear masks throughout the day, and we are pleased to see guardians at the drop off in the morning encourage this for their young ones,” Clark said.
While the statewide masking order has been lifted, Department of Human Services Acting Secretary Meg Snead said families should “feel empowered to wear masks” in any setting they deem appropriate or necessary.
The state Department of Health made the following recommendations for children to mitigate the risk of transmission:
- Washing your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds;
- Making sure your child covers their mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing;
- Staying home if you are unvaccinated and sick with, tested positive for, or were recently (within 14 days) exposed to COVID-19; and,
- Continuing routine doctor appointments and vaccine visits
With the 2021-22 school year set to begin next month for many children across Pennsylvania, Johnson said that at a minimum, the commonwealth’s 500 school districts should be following federal guidelines set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“Schools are always welcome to have stricter guidance than the CDC,” Johnson added.