COVID-19: Sending children back to day care

Posted at 6:50 PM, May 13, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-13 22:34:03-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Once stay-at-home orders are lifted in the Kansas City area, parents who have kept their children home will soon have to decide when is a good time to send their children back to day care.

Blair Messina, a consultant for day care owners and co-owner of Wildflower Montessori in Kansas City, kept her day care open to essential employees during the COVID-19 outbreak, but with additional safety measures that begin when parents drop off their children. Instead of parents walking their children to their classroom, they're met outside by an employee who escorts the child indoors.

"Parents call when they enter the drop-off," Messina said. "We check temperatures, we just do a basic curbside pickup and drop off."

Messina said she's removed items from the building that are not easily cleaned. She also implemented a travel policy for staff and families that will remain in place until the end of May, potentially longer.

"Any family that decides to travel will be required to quarantine outside of school for 14 days," Messina said.

As parents slowly start to bring children back to the school, Messina said she requires they fill out a waiver, stating their children have not displayed any symptoms of the coronavirus.

For parents who have concerns about sending their child back to day care, Messina said it's important parents feel comfortable sharing those concerns with their provider.

"Ask questions, don't be afraid to ask the person who is caring for your child uncomfortable questions," Messina said. "It is their job to answer those questions. Asking questions about cleaning processes and sick policies and travel policies, all those types of things, because everyone's going to have different protocols and policies and you may not feel comfortable going back."

Dr. Steven Stites, chief medical officer with University of Kansas Health System, said those who have family members at high risk for serious illness, should they contract the virus, will need to be even more cautious.

"They're [children in day care] at a higher risk of bringing that back to you, and the kid's gonna be asymptomatic, so what do you do?" Stites said. "Wash your hands, shelter in place and try to mitigate the risks as best you can. There is no easy answer. Are you at more risk when your kids go back to school? Yes, you are."

Depending on the severity of a person's illness, day care might not be a safe option, though some parents might not have a choice. Stites said it's a personal decision that each family will have to make.

"The worse your health is, then you may have to think about more extraordinary measures," Stites said. "You can begin to take a deep breath when vaccinations are possible – successful vaccinations – and as we define more effective therapy. I think the next six to eight weeks will be critical."