whentotest

To protect your kid.

We all want to protect our children. Vaccinating kids is the best way we have to keep them from getting COVID.  We know that most cases of COVID in kids are mild. And we know that vaccines can have side effects. But your child is much more likely to get sick or even die from COVID than they are to get a serious side effect from the vaccine.

In 2021, COVID killed about 600 kids. In an average year, flu kills about 120 kids. So for kids, COVID is at least five times more deadly than the flu.

To protect your family.

Vaccinating your child makes it much less likely that they will get infected and pass the virus on to other family members. That's even more important if someone in your household is at high risk of getting very sick from COVID.

To protect your community.

Vaccinating children can make it less likely that elderly people in your community will get sick.

To protect all of us.

Every time COVID infects a person, there’s a chance that the virus can create a new variant. The best way to keep new variants from appearing is to vaccinate as many people as possible, including kids.

For kids, COVID is at least five times more deadly than the flu. In an average year, flu kills about 120 kids. In 2021, COVID killed about 600 kids.

Omicron is the most deadly variant of COVID for kids so far. It killed 156 children during the month of January 2022. Omicron is also more likely to put children in the hospital than any variant before it.

The good news is that being vaccinated makes it much less likely that your child will go to the hospital with COVID. That was true with Delta, and it's still true with Omicron.

These questions will help you figure out how risky a small, private gathering in your area might be.

RiskierLess Risky
Is there a lot of COVID going around?YesNo
Will the event be crowded?YesNo
Will it be indoors?YesNo
If so, does the space get lots of fresh air, or is the air filtered or cleaned?NoYes
Will people be eating and drinking at the event?YesNo
How long will the event last?LongerShorter
Will most of the people at the event be vaccinated?NoYes
Will the guests test just before coming to the event?NoYes

If the gathering is more risky, you can reduce your children's risk by:

  • Being up to date on vaccines.

  • Keeping your child up to date on vaccines, if they're old enough to get vaccinated.

  • Wearing high-quality, well-fitted masks.

  • Spending less time at the event.

  • Not eating or drinking at the event.

  • Standing or sitting farther away from other people at the event.

  • Asking the host to consider moving the event outdoors, bringing more fresh air in, or using an air cleaner.

  • Asking the host to consider having the guests test just before coming to the event. For the best accuracy with rapid tests, guests would test two days before the event, as well.

If you feel that the event is too risky, it’s always okay to decide not to go. Don’t attend if:

  • You or your child is sick with COVID symptoms.

  • You or your child has tested positive and hasn't ended isolation.

  • You or your child is still waiting for results from a COVID test.

Going to school is really important for kids. The good news is, even if there's a lot of COVID going around, using COVID tools can help make schools much safer places to be.  When COVID levels are high, schools can use these COVID tools to help keep students, teachers, and staff safer:

  • Encouraging or requiring keeping up to date with vaccines making it as easy as possible to do so.

  • Fixing and improving ventilation systems and adding air cleaners if needed. The EPA's Clean Air in Buildings Challenge has a list of steps that schools can take to improve indoor air quality.

  • Requiring high-quality, well-fitted masks.

  • Moving meals to outdoor areas.

  • Encouraging students, teachers, and staff to stay home when they feel sick, and giving them the support they need while they're at home.

  • Having a COVID testing program for students, teachers, and staff who are involved in high-risk activities such as close-contact sports, band, choir, and theater. Testing at key times of the year, such as after breaks or before large gatherings like prom, help make the school safer, too.

Even if there's a lot of COVID going around the area where your children go to school, there are COVID tools you can use to keep them safer there:

  • Keeping them up to date with vaccines.

  • Having them wear high-quality masks that fit well and are comfortable to wear all day.

  • Having them eat outdoors if possible.

  • If they have to eat indoors, having them keep their mask on unless they're actively eating and drinking.

Anyone who has COVID symptoms should get tested and stay away from others until they get the result. Also, check your school rules or talk to your school nurse. Your school may have additional instructions for students with COVID symptoms.

If your child tests positive on a rapid test

  • They're almost certainly contagious. Contact your school and your child's health-care provider to let them know.

  • They'll need to isolate, and you may want to consider treatment for them. Learn more.

If your child tests negative on a rapid test

  • The result might not be right. After you’ve been exposed to COVID, it takes a few days for enough virus to grow in your body that you test positive.

  • To be more sure, test your child again 48 hours later, and have them wear a mask around others until then. Make sure to follow all of the instructions that come with the test.

  • You can also get a lab test to confirm the result.

If your child doesn't have any COVID symptoms, they don't have to stay home unless their school requires it.

Your child will need to get tested 5 days after their contact, and they'll need to wear a mask around others for a while. Learn more

If there's a lot of COVID going around the area where your children go to school, using these COVID tools will make their bus ride a lot safer:

Bringing fresh air into the bus also helps a lot. If possible, have the bus driver keep all the windows open. If most windows must be closed because of weather, keep at least two open in the front of the bus and two open at the back. That pulls air into and through the bus.

If there's a lot of COVID going around the area where your children go to school, using these COVID tools on public transportation will help keep your kids safer:

  • Keeping them up to date with vaccines.

  • Having them wear high-quality masks that fit well.

  • Having them sit in open-air parts of buses, if available.

  • Having them sit farther away from other people, if possible.

Children under six months can't be vaccinated yet, and children under age 2 can't wear masks. That gives day care a special set of COVID concerns.

Here are some ways day care centers can improve safety when there's a lot of COVID going around the area:

  • Encouraging or requiring staff and children ages 6 months and up to keep up to date with vaccines and making it as easy as possible to do so.

  • Fixing and improving ventilation systems and adding air cleaners if needed. The EPA's Clean Air in Buildings Challenge has a list of steps that day care centers can take to improve indoor air quality.

  • Requiring high-quality, well-fitted masks.

  • Moving meals to outdoor areas.

  • Encouraging teachers and staff to stay home when they feel sick, and giving them the support they need while they're at home.

  • Having a COVID testing program for students, teachers, and staff at key times of the year, such as after holidays.

COVID moves through the air in tiny bits of moisture from a contagious person. Infected people send out more of these tiny particles when they breathe heavily. That's why activities like sports and singing are more risky when there's lots of COVID going around. It may also be part of the reason why kids are more likely to catch COVID while playing sports than they are to catch it in school.

If there's a lot of COVID in your area, you can use these tools to help make sports safer for your kids. They'll help keep the other athletes safer, too.

  • Keeping them up to date with vaccines.

  • Having them wear high-quality masks that fit well and will stay in place during exercise.

  • Playing sports outside.

  • For indoor sports, bringing .

  • Playing for a shorter amount of time.

  • Testing all players regularly.

COVID moves through the air in tiny bits of moisture from a contagious person. Infected people send out more of these tiny particles when they breathe heavily. That's why activities like singing, drama, and dance are more risky when there's lots of COVID going around.

If there's a lot of COVID in your area, you can use these tools to help make these activities safer for your kids. They'll help keep the other performers safer, too.

COVID moves through the air in tiny bits of moisture from a contagious person. Infected people send out more of these tiny particles when they breathe heavily. That's why activities like singing and playing wind instruments are more risky when there's lots of COVID going around.

If there's a lot of COVID in your area, you can use these tools to help make these activities safer for your kids. They'll help keep the other performers safer, too.

Musicians who play wind instruments can wear masks with slits that allow the mouthpiece through. Covering the bell with surgical-mask material or a piece of a high-quality air filter makes playing safer.

A COVID-safer day camp will do the following:

  • Encourage or require staff and students to be up to date on vaccinations.

  • Require masking if COVID-19 Community Levels are high, and support all staff and students who decide to wear masks if levels are lower.

  • Keep the kids outside as much as possible (especially while eating), and ensure that indoor spaces have clean air.

  • Be able to test and isolate any campers or staff members who get COVID-19 symptoms during the camp day.

  • Have a COVID-19 screening testing program in place for kids and staff involved in high-risk activities such as close-contact sportsbandsinging, or theater.

  • Have a COVID screening testing program for everyone if the camp serves people at high risk of getting COVID-19.

In addition to the guidelines for day camps, the CDC has special recommendations for overnight camps:

  • Consider asking campers and staff to test before arrival at camp. Camps may also have a screening testing program, especially if they serve campers who are at high risk of getting very sick from COVID-19.

  • Have a plan for testing campers who develop COVID-19 symptoms while they’re at camp, and for isolation and quarantine of campers and staff.

  • Require campers and staff who do off-site activities to follow CDC guidelines based on the COVID-19 Community Level in the area. If the Community Level is medium or high, campers or staff members who leave the camp for 24 hours or more would ideally test when they get back and then again five days later.