#childsafety | When Parents Get Sick, Who Cares for the Kids?

With 160 million to 214 million Americans projected to become infected with the new coronavirus — and up to 21 million of them potentially requiring hospitalization — Kylstra’s dilemma is a frightening one that is playing out in households across the country. The disease resulting from infection with the new coronavirus, called Covid-19, is most dangerous for those at highest risk — older adults and those with pre-existing health conditions. But it has also been impacting younger, healthier adults who are in their 30s, 40s and 50s.

“We’re seeing situations where entire families are sickened with Covid-19, because it’s so contagious when you have prolonged close contact,” said Dr. Thomas Murray, M.D., Ph.D., associate medical director for infection prevention at Yale New Haven Children’s Hospital. While most parents will only show mild to moderate symptoms, he added, the reality is some will require hospitalization, and “it’s impossible to predict who,” he said.

This reality is a particularly disturbing one for single parents, who not only have to shoulder the sole responsibility of their child’s care, but who also have to worry what will happen to their kids if they end up in the hospital. “When I got sick, it was my worst nightmare,” said Lesley Enston, 39, a single mother who lives in Brooklyn. Enston developed Covid-like symptoms in mid-March, including a loss of taste and smell, fatigue and mild shortness of breath. At first, she considered sending her daughter, age 1, to her father’s house, but eventually she was reluctant to do so since her dad has pre-existing heart and lung conditions. One night in late March, she struggled to breathe. “I panicked, not knowing who would be able to take Desslyn if I required an ambulance,” she said.

Whether you’re high-risk or not, partnered or single, legal experts say it’s essential that all parents devise a backup plan now, even if you aren’t sick. “You need to have an A, B and C list of friends and family members that would be willing to step in, knowing that they will most likely be exposed to the virus,” said Lauren Wolven, a trusts and estates attorney at Levenfeld Pearlstein LLC in Chicago. It’s a tough ask, and family members and friends may need some time to mull over their comfort level with it.

In an ideal world, the best caregivers would be any friends or relatives who have already been infected with the virus and have since recovered, Dr. Murray said, since theoretically they would already have at least some immunity. But that, of course, may not be realistic for many parents. Ideally, you’d choose someone who lives nearby, or at least within a few hours driving distance. “You don’t want to pick someone who needs to fly across the country or drive several days if it’s an emergency,” Wolven noted.


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