KANSAS CITY, Mo — Daycare facilities are worried about the coming weeks as children return to their facilities after holiday break.
A few in the Kansas City metropolitan area are already reporting children and staff absences due to COVID-19.
“We were feeling somewhat of a relief, but not now,” CEO of EarlystART Deidre Anderson said.
Anderson said it was a silver lining that the current surge happened over holiday break. It certainly helped minimize the need for contact tracing.
However, as asymptomatic students return this week, she forsees that absences spike in January. About 10% of her students and staff are out due to COVID-19, 17 children, nine staff members and counting.
“You know, unfortunately, I do see it going up,” Anderson said.
According to a weekly report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, cases of COVID-19 reported in childcare facilities are correlated with the level of community spread.
Children’s Mercy Hospital reported that 231 children under two-years-old tested positive for COVID-19 during the last week of December.
“The biggest challenge that I see is just the sheer volume of people that are in this building everyday,” Anderson said. “And then the other is just developmentally, the attention span of a three-year-old is much different than a 13-year-old.”
Most of the children at EarlystART are ineligible for the vaccine. Anderson is implementing stricter protocols on top of masking and temperature checks to create a safe bubble around her kids.
“We’re not implementing the five day quarantine, we are sticking with the ten day,” said Anderson. “If you don’t get vaccinated, you are required to be tested weekly.”
75% of her staff are fully vaccinated with some already boosted. Anderson is even offering incentives to her employees to do so.
“We do have a bonus for our staff once they get fully vaccinated,” Anderson said.
Many in the industry are two years into the pandemic and not out of the woods yet. Executive Director Latonya Fisher with Bare Essentials Childcare Center is worried about the morale and retention of her staff.
“It's affected the enrollment of students, because I can’t bring in more children without staff,” Fisher said.
During the first week back from holiday break, three families had already called out from quarantine. Fisher is worried more students have already been exposed by asymptomatic students.
“Every child needs to be tested before parents bring them back so that they can have a negative test before they arrive to ensure that no one else is being affected by it,” Fisher said.