Is it safe to send your kids to daycare?

is daycare safe coronavirus covid-19
Photo via Greg Goebel/Flickr (CC BY SA 2.0)
  • Children are at less risk from COVID-19 but are not entirely risk-free
  • Safety precautions can be taken to reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19 
  • Social distancing and mask-wearing will be tougher to control

COVID-19 is far from being eliminated, or even controlled, in the U.S. Some states, however, have managed to get case numbers low enough to cautiously begin reopening. As people try to balance their work and home lives, is daycare a safe alternative for those who need somebody to watch their kids? 

The first thing to consider when asking if daycare is safe for your children is where you live. Coronavirus infections vary wildly from state to state, and case numbers are still on the rise in several key areas. If you live in one of the states that have started to get their numbers under control, a readjustment back to normal life may be possible.

As Dr. Charlene Wong, a pediatrician at Duke University, told USA Today, “The No. 1 thing to consider is what the rates of COVID-19 are in your community.”

There are a few other things to keep in mind, however. 

Any family with high-risk members should carefully consider whether daycare is a safe option. While COVID-19 has proven to be less dangerous to children overall, kids can still be carriers of the virus. Sending them to daycare could increase the risk of bringing the virus into your home. You’ll also want to know the measures your chosen child care intends to take to keep your children safe. While social distancing, mask-wearing, and similar measures will be more difficult to employ for toddlers, there are many measures that can be taken to offset the risk—and either way, mentally preparing your children for preschool or daycare as much as possible is a good idea.

The CDC released a list of recommendations for parents aiming to return their children to child care. Simple measures like checking children for signs of illness each morning, ensuring that kids are up-to-date on vaccines, and making sure they have access to water are all included on the list. 

Some experts actually believe that daycare centers might be safer than schools, simply because many of them have been open throughout the summer and are more familiar with cleaning protocols. “I think parents of school-aged kids are wringing their hands more,” Dr. Diane Glassy, a spokesperson for the American Academy of Pediatrics, said, via Everyday Health. “Childcare has still kept going on for the last six months and they have already worked through a lot of issues.” 

The risk to the adults involved in running a daycare is also a concern. Teachers, cafeteria workers, speech therapists, janitors, and other employees will all return to crowded schools along with children. The lethality of COVID-19 is far higher in older age groups, and the virus presents a much bigger risk to adults than to children. In late August, it was reported that children, even if they don’t show any symptoms, can carry the virus in their throats and noses for weeks. That could put parents and daycare workers at higher risk, especially since school teachers have begun dying of COVID-19.

And children and daycare center employees certainly haven’t been immune to the virus.

Following the recommended safety measures and monitoring class sizes and contact groups, the risk to both children and the adults around them can be lessened immensely. Ultimately, however, parents and teachers will have to weigh the risk themselves—based on their location, familial risk, and the need for their kids to get back to school. 

Daycare centers are also hurting financially. As Axios noted in September, 50% of day care centers might have to close permanently if they don’t get an infusion of capital from the federal government. That amounts to about 4.5 million children who wouldn’t have day care access. On Oct. 6, North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper (D) announced that the state’s health and human services department will provide an additional $35 million for child care programs during the pandemic.

In October, a Yale University study found some good news: Child care centers have not been associated with the spread of the coronavirus, and there was no “heightened risk” for child care providers catching the virus as long as those centers maintained safety standards.

Is it safe:

Sources: Healthy Children, CDC, Kids Health, CNBC

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