Doctor explains what parents need to know about coronavirus and kids: 'We shouldn't be treating this like a snow day'
Dr. Leana Wen (MSNBC)

A public health expert explained how parents should explain the coronavirus outbreak with their children, and outlined what steps they can take to protect their families.

Dr. Leana Wen, who has been calling for "aggressive" cancellations to overcome early inaction on the COVID-19 outbreak, said parents and families must take social distancing seriously.

"We shouldn't be treating this like a snow day," Wen, an emergency physician and public health professor at George Washington University, told MSNBC’s “Morning Joe." "Kids should not be going on play dates, we should not be having birthday parties and celebrations. Everything should be placed on hold. I think this is a time when each of us has to take that responsibility, as well."

Wen advised parents to explain the situation to their children as plainly as possible.

"It's important to tell everybody in the household that this is not life as usual, that these are extraordinary times and we always have to make sacrifices," she said. "That means no play dates. It's hard with kids who are restless at homes. Find some projects do things together as a family. Spend time outdoors as family unit, but don't get together with other people, including extended family."

"In particular, I would keep little kids away from elderly grandparents and others who have chronic medical conditions, and try to limit your trips to grocery stores," Wen added. "Don't go to coffee shops, restaurants, other crowded places. Really think about what are the absolutely essential things that you need."

Social distancing was particularly hard on children, but Wen said they are crucial to containing the virus.

"The whole reason that we're closing down schools is to prevent kids from interacting with each other and spreading germs to each other," Wen said. "Kids are making huge sacrifices, especially kids who depend on their schools as their only meals. If they're making that sacrifice, the least that we can do for people who have a bit more privilege is to keep our kids away from each other. Other people are making much bigger sacrifices than us and we need to do our part, too."