Daycares in Connecticut and across the country have been open since the COVID-19 pandemic started to take care of the children of essential workers. Now with more people heading back to work, more kids will be heading back to daycare.
About 1,552 daycares have remained open since the beginning of the pandemic. So how many COVID-19 cases have they experienced?
“I’ve heard of 20 to 30 at the most throughout the state while there have been 1,500 programs open over the past three months,” Early Childhood Commissioner Beth Bye said.
When that happens, the childcare center or home may make the decision to shut down for two weeks as a precaution.
“We had one potential case, but it was caught and there was no outbreak. I think the reason why it was caught is because we asked really important screening questions,” Jill Marini, director of Early Learning at the YWCA, said.
Marini said they ask five screening questions and take the children’s temperature when they enter and two more times throughout the day.
“All of what we do is relational. Children don’t learn if they don’t have positive attachments with their teachers so that was something we had to look at really intentionally and say 'okay how do we set these classrooms up so they can still build relationships with their peers?'" Marini said.
Teachers have expressed concern about returning to the classroom, and Bye hopes the information gleaned from the daycare experience will make them feel more comfortable about schools reopening in the fall.
She pointed to a national study by Yale researcher Walter Gilliam.
“I think he has 90,000 participants,” Bye said. “To look to caregivers and parents to look to see if childcare programs are a nexus for others to get sick. We know the impact on children isn’t that high.”
Gilliam expects to merge the infection data with the social distancing protocols and demographics for specific regions of the country to figure out if childcare puts people at a higher risk of contracting the virus. Bye says there have been strict protocols to mitigate that risk.
“Everyone’s being extra careful. There was a program in this region where a parent tested positive and the program decided to close for two weeks for preventative purposes,” she said.
Bye said COVID cases have been few and far between and programs, parents and local and state health officials have been responsive. She said the YMCAs remained open across the county and the infection rate was low.
“I think we’ve got to think there are other public health implications of not having kids return to these social-emotional activities,” Bye said. “And cognitive activities that are so important to their growth. It’s not zero risk, there’s no zero risks and I would not stand here on the news and say to parents there’s no risk but there are risks on both sides and it’s beginning to be we have to weigh that.”