Why daycares are still open while the rest of B.C. is social distancing - InfoNews

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Why daycares are still open while the rest of B.C. is social distancing

Image Credit: SUBMITTED / Bridge Educational Society
March 20, 2020 - 7:30 PM

While the rest of the province is practicing social distancing and self-isolation, young children enrolled in daycare are still allowed to attend programs.

Provincial Health Officer Bonnie Henry says there are enhanced guidelines coming around daycares, which haven’t yet been ordered to close or remain open.

“Certainly, we are not keeping all centres open. That is not what is in place right now,” Henry said in a press conference on Wednesday.

Henry noted that many daycares may feel a relief as parents working from home can care for their children themselves, which in turn could offer spaces to children of essential service workers - if the daycare is open.

“As we implement these broad social measures to delay transmission of COVID-19, many parents now are working from home and caring for children at home and that is really important because that does take the pressure off our daycare centres and ensures that there is reliable and safe childcare for those who do need it,” Henry said.

Some daycare providers have been left unsure of what to do in this situation, as Henry described the service as essential, but notes they don’t need to remain operational.

“There is no requirement for all centres to stay open… What we are looking at is... I do believe child care is an essential service and, particularly, as we mentioned, for our essential service workers.”

Late this afternoon, March 20, Henry urged all parents who can to care for their children at home but reiterated "child care services can and must be provided in a safe manner for those families whose parents work in critical roles."

She also announced additional compensation for daycare providers to continue operating with reduced enrolment and centres that close will get support for fixed costs like rent or lease payments. You can find out more about that here.  

Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry with Health Minister Adrian Dix in the background.
Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry with Health Minister Adrian Dix in the background.
Image Credit: FACEBOOK/Government of B.C.

Some daycare providers are struggling to understand Henry’s announcement while meeting the needs and safety concerns of their employees.

“We asked parents to only come to the daycare if it's absolutely necessary, in order to keep children safe, our staff safe,” says Fran Richardson, program manager for Children’s Circle Daycare in Kamloops.

The location where Richardson was working today is rented from Interior Health, with enrolment priority given to hospital staff’s children. She says despite the fact many children have parents in the medical field, attendance has dropped from their usual 50 kids to having just four in the program today. Despite the drop in attendance, she is worried that staffing and child-caregiver ratios may be an issue.

“I have quite a few staff who are choosing to go on (unemployment insurance) because they don't want to expose their family… and we have some that have some medical reasons why they don't want to be here,” Richardson says. “I can only allow so many children per staff and I’ve already had two staff that are worried (about getting sick)... we’re not there yet, but our other site, that’s a different story.”

The daycare’s other location has kept a somewhat steady attendance, while more staff chose to leave. Richardson says she has enough staff for now, but realizes the issue that may arise.

Richardson, who believes she is at risk because of her medical history battling cancer and multiple sclerosis, says they need to keep the centre running to ensure the parents they serve - primarily from Interior Health - can remain working during the pandemic.

Complicating matters for many day care providers is when regular clients refuse to remove their children and insist on continuing working. In all, it makes for tough decisions about staffing.

While she recognizes the prevalence of the virus and the safety implications it can have on her, she says they are teaching the kids about social distancing and hygiene.

“We show them how to distance like, ‘This is my space, this is your space.’ For snacks, instead of using one table we use two tables.”

Whatever may happen in regards to the daycares, Richardson says this has become an opportunity for the provincial government to understand how important this service is.

“It took us years to convince them that we need to be making more money, and now they're like, 'well you guys need to stay open,'” Richardson says. “It’s amazing how they think we’re important now.”

Still have questions? Let us know in the comments below or email news@infonews.ca and we'll try to get them clarified.

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