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Doctors Urge Parents To Weigh Risks Of Enrolling Kids In Summer Programs Amid Coronavirus Pandemic

Milwaukee-area health professionals want parents to weigh the risks before enrolling their kids in summer sports or camps.

For most kids, the summer signals the end of the school year and the return to summer sports and camps. But with the arrival of the coronavirus, things are different this year.

With many states, including Wisconsin, lifting their stay-at-home orders, people who run camps or youth sports may be considering – or working on – reopening. But local health professionals want parents to weigh the risks before enrolling their kids.

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Doctors Sharyl Paley and Kevin Walter went live on Facebook Wednesday to outline the evolving guidelines, from the state and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, for youth summer programs.

Walter, the program director of sports medicine at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin, says sports will have different levels of risk based on how much direct physical contact participants usually have. 

The safest approach? To postpone or cancel youth sports at this time, he says, citing the state Department of Health Services.

But with most counties and municipalities open, some families choose to accept the risk. Walter says returning to sports will be a phased approach.

"This phased, step-wise increase would basically move you from individual workouts virtually — which is kind of where I think we are now — to more small group, maybe less than 10, keeping up with physical distancing. Do some training drills that are non-contact, not passing balls between each other. And then moving on to larger group drills where maybe you bring the whole group together."

Walter says then teams can move to competitions. But only locally because traveling would expose teams from different communities with different risk factors to each other, likely increasing exposure. 

When it comes to reopening camps, Paley, a pediatrician at Bayshore Pediatrics, says the health guidelines may look different between overnight camps and day camps.

"If you have an overnight camp and you have cabins, then keeping your cabin together and not intermixing at all with the other cabins. It’s keeping age groups at the day camps together. [The CDC talks] about wearing masks, especially when you’re indoors. But one of the big things they talk about is, as much as you can, be outside."

Paley says being outside is a little bit safer. But both doctors say there is no clear answer to when it will be 100% safe for kids to go back to sports or camps.

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Teran Powell joined WUWM in the fall of 2017 as the station’s very first Eric Von Fellow.
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