Overall, Jonathan Sollinger says, kids are responding well to the COVID-19 crisis.
“They’re resilient and capable. They’re rising to the occasion.”
He should know. One of 6 physicians at Willows Pediatrics, Dr. Sollinger is closely attuned to the health — physical and emotional — of infants, toddlers, children, tweens and teens. Overall, he is heartened by what he sees.
He knows anxiety levels are up. Pre-existing issues have been “illuminated.” The news is frightening. But youngsters understand what’s going on. They are processing the information, adapting, and reacting in generally appropriate ways.
Willows’ practice is adapting too. There are fewer calls to the office. Most injuries are down (through trampoline mishaps and bike scrapes are up). So are contagious diseases kids pass along in school: colds, strep throat, late-season flu. They still get rashes and appendicitis.
Some also get the coronavirus.
Dr. Sollinger sees cases. Primarily they are students back from college, though some younger teenagers have it as well.
“They’ve done very well,” he says. “But there’s a lot of coughing, and long bouts of fever — 8, 10, 12 days. And of course there’s always fear.”
“But these kids are generally healthy. A teenager without asthma or an autoimmune disease can get through this.”
He knows that others besides those who have been diagnosed have had the virus. “Testing is so inadequate,” Dr. Sollinger laments.
His office is a different place than it was 2 months ago. Doctors still see children under 2, to keep up their immunizations. But they see them only in the early morning. Then come regular pediatric visits.
When a patient comes in that the staff has concerns about, everyone wears full PPE. They’re seen in a remote part of the office, at a special time.
Of course, the entire office is cleaned regularly, and thoroughly.
Dr. Sollinger and his colleagues treat most patients — including those with COVID-19 — out of the office, via tele-medicine. They can do many tasks, from inspecting rashes to watching the way a toddler walks, using FaceTime and other apps.
It’s challenging, but prudent. And, the pediatrician says, it is probably a change that will remain even after the virus passes.
He sees some bright spots in the calamity. Parents are spending more time with their children (“that’s also a challenge,” he laughs). People of all ages seem “more willing to ride out difficulties than they were.”
The physician also sees “a lot of ingenuity and kindness. Kids are sewing and 3D-printing masks. They’re cooking for the Gillespie Center.”
Dr. Sollinger — who grew up in Westport, and graduated from Staples High School in 1986 — has great praise for his colleagues, all around town.
“It’s not just Willows. All the pediatric offices in Westport are doing a great job.
“We try to be there for the families, do what we can, be voices of reason. This is something we haven’t seen before. But we’re all getting through it.”
Especially the “resilient, capable” kids these pediatricians care for and love.