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Reopening Rockford: What can my child safely do this summer?

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ROCKFORD (WREX) — The countdown is on. Summer break is just days away for kids in the Stateline.

This summer comes with eased COVID-19 restrictions for vaccinated people. But, not everyone has the chance to get a shot.

"Little kids won't be able to get vaccinated for some time," says SwedishAmerican Dr. Phil Carlson-Dexter.

Health experts say this doesn't mean kids will need to spend a summer in isolation.

"It is as safe as we can make it and better for your kids to be out and socializing even with that small risk of catching Coronavirus," says Carlson-Dexter.

So will kids need to wear a mask if they're enrolled in summer camps? CDC guidelines state mask wearing is recommended in camp settings at all times unless children are eating, drinking, or swimming.

"They should still be masked because they'll be around other kids and kids coming from other households," say OSF Saint Anthony Dr. Ali Khan.

Dr. Khan says this protection is especially important for families with an at-risk loved one at home. His advice is to chat with camp organizers ahead of time.

"See what the arrangements are," says Dr. Khan. "Are they focusing on small groups? Will have have more time outdoors doing activities which is always better than something indoors."

But another opinion says studies show kids don't necessarily need masks while playing with others outdoors.

"Outdoor spread is responsible for a miniscule spread. I read one study that said as low as .1%. So one in 1,000 cases," says Carlson-Dexter.

Dr. Carlson-Dexter goes on to say while the risk of exposure is negligible, it's not zero.

"There is absolutely nothing wrong with sending your kid to summer camp in mask. Wearing a mask is a safe thing to do outside even with vigorous activity."

Summer camp providers, like the YMCA of Rock River Valley, say they'll follow state guidelines as well as direction from the American Camping Association.

"A lot of times what those guidelines will say is if the kids are indoors or they're doing an activity where they can't maintain six feet of distance, they will need to wear a mask," says YMCA of Rock River Valley Chief Operating Officer Trisha Tousant. "But typically when they're outdoors and spread out and free those masks won't be required. I would think that most likely be the case this summer."

As temperatures creep up many kids will want to spend time at the pool. While masks will obviously not be worn in the water, Dr. Khan recommends being strategic about your visit.

"The biggest factor is the crowd," says Dr. Khan. "If there's a bigger crowd, know your risk is higher. But if its a smaller crowd, less chance."

And while doctors agree all these types of summer staples carry some degree of risk for exposure, they say the bigger risk is keeping kids from having fun this summer.

"We know that those kids are at the highest chance of having developmental delays for not getting the social interactions they need," says Dr. Carlson-Dexter.

A concern for stunted development but also deteriorating health.

"We also know kids obesity rates have skyrocketed this year amongst youth," says Tousant. "They're not active and they're not active physically."

Which is why youth advocates like Tousant hope this summer will help families help the reset button.

"Spiritually, physically, mentally so important for them to get back into the groove a little but in a safe way," says Tousant. "We are still being very cautious about following precautions and making sure we keep our kids safe to the best of our ability."

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