“The safest thing is still to wear a mask if you’re unsure,” says Scripps Health pediatrician Dr. Haley Avol.
According to this chart from the CDC, fully vaccinated people should feel comfortable without a mask while exercising outside with members of their household, attending small outdoor gatherings with other vaccinated or unvaccinated family and friends, and eating outdoors at a restaurant with people from multiple households.
But children will likely have to wear masks in those situations, which could create problems in some families.
“For a small child who maybe doesn’t understand that and is asking how come I have to wear a mask and you don’t have to wear a mask, it might be a good example to set for that child, for the parent to wear a mask as well,” says Sharp Rees-Stealy pediatrician Dr. Resham Batra.
“I think if the child is old enough to understand the difference between those that are vaccinated and those that are not vaccinated, it makes it a little bit easier to differentiate.”
Both doctors stress that kids can still get and transmit the COVID-19 virus, so parents should err on the side of caution when thinking about masks.
“We’ll have to continue that until everybody can get vaccinated,” says Dr. Batra. “Or at least until we can achieve herd immunity. And part of herd immunity includes children as well.”
There are also situations where businesses, like museums, theme parks, restaurants, and organized sports, will have their guidelines for safety. Dr. Avol says parents need to stay on top of the latest information to make those decisions.
“The information changes on a daily basis, and even within the day,” she says. “So it’s difficult to stay on top of and, especially for a busy parent, to take to take in all this information.”
Doctors say the bottom line is parents have to do what’s safest for their families, weigh the pros and cons, and follow the CDC guidelines.