Social distancing and social separation are key to preventing the spread the COVID-19 and those guidelines apply to children.

“We just have to say, these are the rules for a while,” says Dr. Chris Kjolhede, a Bassett Medical Center pediatrician in Cooperstown.

“Healthy children are more likely to spread the novel coronavirus than get severely sick,” explains Kjolhede.

Runny noses, coughs and fevers may be from seasonal illnesses, so it’s important not to jump to conclusions about COVID-19, he said. Coronavirus, as a family of viruses, is common among children, he notes, but the COVID-19 is new.

“While children may be asymptomatic, they could be carriers of COVID-19 and their contact with all other people should be limited.

“Play dates are not a good idea,” Kjolhede says. “It’s hard because kids are social creatures.”

New York schools are closed from March 18 through April 1. As of Wednesday afternoon, the state Department of Health reported more than 2,380 positive COVID-19 cases statewide, with scattered cases reported in area counties.

Kjolhede says options to play dates are many. Children can connect over Skype or other media platforms. Indoor exercise, walks outdoors, reading, coloring and playing with toys are alternatives, he said, along with watching educational television programs.

According to the federal Centers for Disease Control, the best way to prevent illness is to avoid exposure to the COVID-19 virus. No vaccine exists to prevent COVID-19.

CDC officials say the virus is thought to spread from person to person, between people who are within 6 feet, and from respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. Older adults and those with serious chronic health conditions, such as heart or lung disease, are at higher risk of getting sick and are urged to stay home, and overall federal guidelines are to avoid social groups of more than 10 people.

The CDC also says parents can help stop the spread of COVID-19 by:

· Teaching children to clean hands often with soap and water or alcohol-based hand sanitizer.

· Avoiding people who are sick or who are coughing and sneezing.

· Disinfecting high-touch surfaces daily in household common areas.

· Laundering items, including washable plush toys.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recently reported on a study that said cases of COVID-19 in children in China were less severe than the disease in adults. The study of 2,143 children analyzed data Jan. 16 to Feb. 8 and more than 90 percent of patients were asymptomatic or had mild or moderate cases.

However, infants had higher rates of severe illness than older children, according to the study published this week in the “Pediatrics” journal. About two-thirds of the children had suspected cases of COVID-19, and others were-laboratory confirmed.

COVID-19 symptoms include fever, cough and shortness of breath, and in infants, Kjolhede says shortness of breath would register as difficulty eating.

Bassett has established 607-547-5555 as a telephone line for people concerned about upper respiratory symptoms that may be COVID-19. There is also more information about the virus on the network’s website bassett.org/covid-19.