Recently, NBC Bay Area reported that there were 998 COVID-19 cases in California’s child care facilities. That’s caused many to further question whether or not it’s safe to send their children back to daycare. The answer is not a simple one. Of course, the health of children and those who they interact with is of utmost importance during these times, but so many parents want to or, more to the point, need to get back to work. Plus, many are concerned about their children’s non-COVID-19 related well-being.
Importance of Daycare
Even those who are fortunate enough to have the flexibility to work at home, it’s a trying situation to attempt to do that and take care of young ones. As Adrienne So wrote in a recent Wired article that analyzed this situation, “You can’t squeeze in an 8-hour workday if you are also parenting a 3- and a 5-year-old.” She also spoke of the stress that it puts on every member of her family for her to regularly tell her children that she needs to get to work.
Another point to consider is the importance of children interacting with each other and with other adults besides yourself to their brain growth. This socio-emotional development is so important, especially for those who are this young. Conversely, if this is not possible for long periods of time, toxic stress can occur and result in increased stress in addition to these trying times not preparing them as well for later childhood and adulthood.
But Is It Safe?
Fortunately, your child will most likely be safe. It’s been proven that, in general, younger adults and children do not suffer the more extreme COVID-19 symptoms that older individuals do. Of course, do keep in mind that this is not a hard and fast rule and that there are always exceptions. Additionally, all newborns plus older children with some underlying health conditions are more likely to experience serious complications from contracting COVID-19. However, even those with underlying health conditions are unlikely to develop severe symptoms.
But the thing that should concern parents and others is a child contracting COVID-19 and then transmitting it to adults such as yourself or other loved ones. Fortunately, recent studies have shown that this is less likely than adult-to-adult transmission, but it should be added that there’s far from a consensus on this issue
What Are Child Care Centers Doing?
For their part, child care centers are, for the most part, doing their best to ensure that their environments are as safe as possible. One step is taking the temperatures of all children and staff. Although this is far from a full-proof method given how many cases don’t involve experiencing a fever, it will help catch some that may have already gotten through. Questions are also being asked to ensure that children there aren’t sick or haven’t interacted with those who are. Parents and children who are sick or have interacted with those with COVID-19 need to stay home.
In many cases, staff members and all or nearly all children are being required to wear a mask. This is an especially important step due to how easily COVID-19 can be transmitted in indoor environments. Time spent outdoors is being extended as much as possible as is the opening of windows and the ventilation that comes with that. Social distancing is being observed as much as possible. Cleanliness is also be a significant focus with items that are handled regularly disinfected and those that can’t be removed.
What Happens If a Staff Member Gets Sick?
Ask what the policy is if a staff member gets sick. Will their job be safe? It’s best to avoid places that provide incentives to staff members to avoid testing and to continue to work while sick.
The Bottom Line
If you have the flexibility to work at home or not need to work at home and take care of your children yourself, that’s probably the best option, taking everything into account. However, even then, it’s best to ensure that your children are interacting with others as best as possible given the COVID-19 circumstances so that they can improve their socio-emotional brain growth.
Also make sure to look at what daycare centers are doing as it relates to what health officials are saying. Just because they’re following the legally mandated requirements does not necessary mean that it’s as safe of an environment as it should be.
This is not an easy situation for any of us, and there are so many factors to consider. In the end, you need to take into account all of these factors and then determine what the best option is for your specific situation and for your family as a whole.