With recent plans announced to distribute face masks and COVID-19 tests in schools, many Connecticut child care providers were left wondering when they might be able to get those supplies to better protect the very young kids in their care.
Now they have an answer: Tuesday.
Child care centers are the next recipients of these coveted COVID-19 supplies.
At Bristol Child Development Center, Executive Director Maegan Adams is looking forward to the arrival of the much-needed items to protect the kids younger than five that attend child care every day.
“They're our most vulnerable population at this point, because they can't have the vaccine,” Adams said. “Children under three are unmasked. And then we have preschoolers, who although are masked, it's kind of hard to social distance of four and five-year-olds from each other when you're in pre-school.”
Initially, Bristol Child Development Center will be getting no more than 50 masks and 50 COVID-19 tests, but the facility has a capacity of 200. Adams said she will be deliberate in how the supplies get used.
She said at-home tests will be reserved for staff and children that are symptomatic or that have direct exposure to the virus.
“Then if we have a classroom that we are seeing that's having a lot of cases come up, then we might provide them to the families, so that the families have access to tests, because as you know right now testing is very hard to find,” Adams said.
The N95 or other medical-grade masks will just be for staff and children showing symptoms. Adams said the center will receive enough masks to provide one to each member of the staff.
Beth Bye, Office of Early Childhood commissioner, said child care providers can expect to get more masks and tests down the line.
Only a quarter of all the supplies will be given out in the first batch Tuesday; the rest is still on the way.
“We're really instructing programs to use them for folks who are symptomatic, for staff members or children who are symptomatic,” Bye said.
The state will ultimately hand out 50,000 at-home test kits and 50,000 medical-grade masks, specifically to child care centers. It is being paid for by approximately $1.75 million in federal relief funds.
“It's been a challenge getting them on-site, but the governor's team is working overtime to make that happen,” Bye said.
She adds that the state has allocated one test per child and two tests per staff member for each child care facility.
The supplies cannot come soon enough, according to Merrill Gay, director of Connecticut Early Childhood Alliance.
“Child care workers as a low paid industry shouldn't be expected to have to purchase their own protective face masks,” he said.
Gay said right now, he sees many centers are struggling with staffing, and it is not just a problem for working parents, but also threatens overall operations.
"Childcare is mostly paid for by parents as opposed to by government,” he said. “When a school closes down because of an outbreak, nobody doubts that it will be there when the outbreak is over. With child care programs, when they close, typically they are not having any revenue."