No One Prepared Us for Tripledemic Parenting — But Congress Can and Should Provide Support

By: Rachel Mannino

My six year old son was in pain, bent over, clutching his stomach and crying. He’d been sent home from school with a fever. Like any momma who has been faced with this situation, I acted quickly. I poured out the last few drops of Motrin we had on hand. My husband called the doctor. No appointments available at all — they’ve been flooded with calls due to the Tripledemic of rising COVID rates, RSV and the flu. My son obviously had to be seen by a doctor in person. Our nearest (and only) urgent pediatric care didn’t have any openings either. The ER it was. Off my husband went with my son and a tablet and a lot of patience to the nearest hospital.

Seven hours later, my husband returned. Our son would be fine. My husband, Chris, had meds from the doctor in hand, but his report on the state of the hospital and the pharmacy was grim. The receptionist at the hospital was working double duty — taking patient vitals and watching the front desk. The ER had almost no staff once they got back to triage. The hospital was filled with an eerie silence. No staff but the one doctor that was able to see my incapacitated son after he sat for hours in the triage area or throwing up in their hallway.

The pharmacy, as many parents already know, is not much better. Understaffed. Overwhelmed. Taking days to dole out prescriptions. Out of every bottle of children’s Motrin and Tylenol. There’s a national shortage on life saving, fever-reducing medications for kids. The children who are most at risk are those that have other illnesses, like seizures, and infants.

Parents and caregivers of small children are facing a convergence of crisis that no one is resolving to fight. The Tripledemic no one is addressing. Parents begging other parents over social media for children’s Motrin and Tylenol to stop their kids skyrocketing fever. A devastating lack of health care providers. Exhausted from a protracted pandemic, we have no one to see our children when they are critically ill — not at their primary care, not at urgent care, and maybe at the ER only after hours of waiting. Pharmacies are so understaffed they’ve had to close down (more than one in my area has closed permanently). Child care centers again on the brink of closing due to sick or overwhelmed staff. And underneath it all, a looming economic crisis as the millions of parents facing these circumstances, who have had to take unpaid time from their jobs again and again realize, they can’t pay their bills this month. Over 40 million workers lack access to a single paid sick day. Only 19% have access to paid family and medical leave. How are they going to pay rent when they have little to no paycheck for weeks on end as illness cycles through their family?

Gratefully, I’m not one of them. I can take a paid sick day to take care of an ill child. I can take paid family leave if a week of sickness knocks us all flat — as it did in September when I was out for 14 days from sickness (one of the many not COVID super bugs floating around).

But I fear for the many caregivers who can’t take any paid sick time. For my family members who can’t. The parents and caregivers of young children who will lose their jobs as their kid gets COVID, RSV, and then the flu, over and over again. They have zero protection. How many will have to fall back on unemployment or nothing?

I wrote to my Congressional Representative to outline the high costs of the Tripledemic that Congress must address immediately. Parents and caregivers are paying the costs now, but soon, we all will. Congress must act — to recruit more health care workers for the frontlines of the Tripledemic, to produce and distribute emergency supplies of children’s fever-reducing medications before children die, and to secure paid sick and safe days and paid family and medical leave for us all.



27 state coalitions working to win for Paid Sick Days, Paid Leave and other policies that value families at work in your city, county and state, then nation.

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Family Values @ Work

27 state coalitions working to win for Paid Sick Days, Paid Leave and other policies that value families at work in your city, county and state, then nation.