Is it safe to hire a babysitter to watch your child in the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic? According to the CDC, Covid-19 most commonly spreads between people who are in close contact with one another. There is definitely a chance of being infected with Covid-19 when you hire a babysitter to watch your child. However, having a babysitter watch your child is safer than sending your child to daycare. With a babysitter, you are only exposing your child to one person versus exposing your child to many people in a daycare setting. I know of families who hired babysitters with backgrounds in childhood education (they found babysitters studying to become teachers). So instead of sending their child to preschool, they have their babysitter run a private preschool at home instead. Whether you end up hiring your babysitter as a preschool alternative or have your babysitter come in to help with after school childcare, you will need to take safety precautions around your babysitter to lower your family’s risk of getting Covid-19 . Here are 8 tips on how to keep your child safe with the babysitter during the Covid-19 pandemic.
How to Keep Your Child Safe with the Babysitter During the Covid-19 Pandemic
Below are 8 tips on how to keep you child safe with the babysitter during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Tip 1: Ask Your Babysitter Questions to Assess Your Babysitter’s Covid-19 Exposure
According to the CDC, COVID-19 most commonly spreads between people who are in close contact with one another. Know that there is risk of Covid-19 exposure when you hire a babysitter to take care of your child. Before you hire your babysitter, it’s important to find out more about your babysitter’s lifestyle and living arrangements. In order to minimize your family’s risk of Covid-19, you need to assess your babysitter’s potential Covid-19 exposure. Below are are some questions to ask your babysitter in order to find out more about your babysitter’s Covid-19 exposure.
Find out if your babysitter has a second job. Do you have another part-time job? Do you babysit for another family? How many kids do you babysit for? Do they go to in-person school?
Find out if your babysitter goes to school. Do you go to school? Is your school in-person or remote learning?
Find out who your babysitter lives with. Who do you live with? Do you have kids? Are your kids back in school? Do you live with extended family? Do the family members that you live with work outside your home? Where do they go to work?
Find out more about your babysitter’s lifestyle. Do you meet up with friends? Are you dating? Do you eat out at restaurants? Do you have any plans to travel? Do you play any sports? Are you part of a sports team? How often do you go to stores?
Get a sense of how careful your babysitter is with taking precautions against Covid-19. What Covid-19 safety precautions do you take when you are outside meeting up with friends? Have you ever been exposed to Covid-19? How long did you quarantine for when you were exposed?
It may feel strange asking these very personal questions but you need to be asking these types of questions in order to get a better picture of your babysitter’s Covid-19 exposure. It’s important that you ask because your babysitter will be in very close contact with your child. You need to trust that your babysitter is doing everything she can to keep your family safe. By hiring your babysitter, you are bringing your babysitter into your pod. And by extension, you will be exposing your family to the people she lives with, the other family she babysits for and everyone else she comes in contact with. Ideally, you want a babysitter who does not have another part-time job, who lives by herself, who does not have a busy social life, who does not travel and who is diligently with Covid-19 precautions! Even if you find that perfect babysitter with minimum Covid-19 exposure, just know that there is always a chance to be exposed to Covid-19. Your goal by asking your babysitter these questions is to reduce your family’s Covid-19 exposure as much as possible.
Tip: If you are still looking for a babysitter or nanny, try Care.com. I like that there is always a lot of qualified local babysitters for any childcare needs. They even have afterschool sitters and tutors. Plus they do background checks to prescreen candidates.
Tip 2: Daily Covid-19 Screening with Your Babysitter
You should have some type of daily Covid-19 screening with your babysitter. This is similar to the daily Covid-19 screening that your child’s school have in place. Check your babysitter’s temperature daily. Use an infrared thermometer so it’s contactless and safe. Find out if your babysitter has any Covid-19 symptoms such as a fever, chills, cough, shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, fatigue, body aches, sore throat, headache, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, congestion, runny nose or loss of taste or smell (check with the CDC for the latest list of Covid-19 symptoms). Ask your babysitter if she has recently been in close contact with someone who tested positive for Covid-19 or someone who has had Covid-19 symptoms or someone who was advised to quarantine. You should also find out if your babysitter recently traveled out of state or have been in close contact to someone who recently traveled out of state.
Tip 3: Ask Your Babysitter to Wear a Mask
According to the CDC, masks protects the person wearing the mask and the people around them. The CDC recommends mask wearing when you are unable to stay at least 6 feet apart from others since Covid-19 spreads mainly among people who are in close contact with one another. In most instances, it will be difficult for your babysitter to always maintain a 6 feet distance from your child, so in order to protect your child, you need to ask your babysitter to wear a mask. According to the CDC, people age 2 and older should wear masks when around people who don’t live in their household. You should ask your child to wear his/her mask around the babysitter.
There have been studies showing that the type of mask you wear makes a difference in terms of how effective it is in protecting you against Covid-19. According to the CDC, cloth masks should be made of tightly woven fabrics, such as cotton and cotton blends, 2 or 3 layers and breathable. Non-medical disposable masks are also good. Make sure these masks don’t have exhalation valves or vents. The most effective masks are the surgical masks or N95 masks but the CDC recommends reserving these masks for healthcare workers. Since your babysitter will be with your child for a long period of time, you need to make sure your babysitter and your child are both wearing the most protective mask possible to protect each other from Covid-19.
Tip: I like the masks from School Mask Pack. They have a pretty good sale right now: Spend $50, Get $20 OFF with promo code DEC20 (Valid 12/1-12/3). You can get masks for both kids and adults.
Tip 4: As Much as Possible, Ask Your Babysitter to Play with Your Kids Outdoors
As much as possible, ask your babysitter to play outside with your child. Ask your babysitter to play in the backyard or to take your child to a nearby park (hand sanitizing, social distancing and mask wearing needs to be practiced at the park). If weather permits, eat outdoors in your backyard patio or deck. Since Covid-19 is more likely to spread indoors than outdoors, it’s safer for your child to be outside with your babysitter.
Tip 5: Increase Air Ventilation in Your House
It’s unrealistic to ask your babysitter to be outside with your child all day. When the weather is bad or during the colder months, your babysitter will want to be inside. You need to make sure you have good air ventilation in your house. According to the CDC, Covid-19 can spread through airborne transmission. If you have poor air ventilation at home, respiratory droplets of Covid-19 can build up in enclosed indoor space with poor ventilation. These droplets will then infect people with Covid-19. You can improve air ventilation at home with air purifiers and HVAC air filters.
Run your air purifiers all day. Place them strategically around your house. Find out where your babysitter will be spending the most time with your child and put an air purifier in that room. Also, put an air purifier in common areas in your house where you think there is poor airflow. For example, an interior hallway is a good spot for an air purifier to increase the overall air flow. Before you buy air purifiers, check to make sure you buy the type of air purifier that can filter out Covid-19 virus. According to EPA, in order to protect you against Covid-19, you need an air purifier that meets at least one of these criteria: designated as High-Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA), it is Clean Air Delivery Rate (CADR) rated or the manufacturer states that your air purifier will remove most particles in the size range below 1 um. Here are some recommended air purifiers that can filter out Covid-19. I personally use the Eureka air purifier, I bought several units to use around the house.
Air purifiers are designed to filter the air in a single room while HVAC filters are designed to filter air throughout your entire home. In order to protect against Covid-19, you should upgrade your HVAC air filters to at least MERV-13. MERV is the Minimum Efficiency Reporting Values, it is a rating on the filter’s ability to capture particles. The higher the MERV rating, the better it is in filtering out small particles. In order to filter out small particles such as Covid-19 viruses from the air, you need to install air filters with MERV-13 or higher. I get my MERV-13 air filters from airfilters.com.
Tip 6: Have Your Babysitter and Kids Wear Masks and Open Windows in the Car
You need to set safety precautions when your child is in the car with the babysitter. Think of your car as indoor space with poor ventilation. Your child can get infected with Covid-19 if your babysitter has it. When in the car, make sure your child and the babysitter are all wearing masks. You should also ask your babysitter to roll down the windows to increase air ventilation in the car.
Tip 7: Set Restrictions on Playdates (or have no playdates at all)
Similar to non-Covid times, you probably have restrictions in place with your babysitter in terms of setting up playdates with other kids. However, since we are in the middle of a pandemic, you need to add another layer of safety precautions to protect your child from Covid-19. Person to person transmission is the main source of Covid-19 transmission. The more people your child is exposed to, the higher the likelihood of getting Covid-19. Since we are in the middle of a pandemic, your safest bet is to have no playdates at all. But if you are going to allow your babysitter to set-up playdates, then you should set some guidelines to limit your child’s Covid-19 exposure. Make a list of kids that your babysitter can arrange playdates with. These can be children from families that you know are careful with their Covid-19 exposure or they are families in your pod. Ask your babysitter to restrict playdates to outdoors only. And have the kids and adults wear masks during the playdate. Don’t arrange playdates during meal times so there is no mask removal during the playdate. Ask your babysitter to avoid group playdates and to keep playdates one on one. Doing group playdates will increase your child’s Covid-19 exposure.
Tip 8: Set Covid-19 Safety Guidelines During Mealtimes
Because masks are removed during mealtimes, there is increased potential for Covid-19 exposure. You should set-up guidelines for meal prep like handwashing and mask wearing during meal prep. Then during the meal, you need to determine your comfort level in terms of Covid-19 exposure for your child. Are you OK with your babysitter eating next to your child? Are you OK with your babysitter feeding your child? Or do you feel more comfortable if your babysitter sits at a separate table to maintain physical distance from your child while masks are off? If at all possible, ask your babysitter to serve lunch outside, so they avoid eating indoors. If it’s not possible to eat outside, make sure your babysitter keeps the air purifier running nearby.
Final Thoughts on Hiring a Babysitter During the Covid-19 Pandemic
You need to be aware that there is risk involved in having a babysitter come to your house to watch your child during the Covid-19 pandemic. You can take safety precautions to help reduce your child’s Covid-19 risk. However, safety precautions are not fool-proof. If you want to minimize your family’s risk to Covid-19, your safest childcare option is a live-in nanny. Instead of a babysitter who comes to your house everyday and potentially exposing your family to Covid-19, it’s safest to have a nanny who lives in your house. A live-in nanny will have minimum outside exposure and she can truly be part of your household. However, having a live-in nanny may not be a realistic option for every family. The next best option for childcare is to hire a babysitter. There is always a chance that your babysitter comes to work with Covid-19 and unknowingly exposes your child to Covid-19. At the end of the day, you need to decide if it’s worth taking the risk to hire a babysitter to watch your child.
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