Extra Than 12,000 Coronavirus Instances Have Been Reported At California Baby Care Facilities


Ana Bertha Ballesteros had to close her home childcare in Delano for more than two weeks around Thanksgiving when COVID-19 came to her center. One child and his family were exposed and tested positive. Then Ballesteros did too.

She’s afraid it will happen again.

“I am very concerned,” said Ballesteros. “Thank goodness I made it for these 14 days, but if we have another exposure, what will happen to me and my family? It’s our only income. “

California have childcare facilities reported to the state 12,032 cases of COVID-19 and 30 deaths since the pandemic began. Infections have occurred in almost a fifth of all centers or homes – in employees, children or their parents. None of the 30 deaths was a child.

The pandemic has created several childcare issues in California, including a lack of care centers, a non-negligible risk of infection even with costly precautions, and difficulties for the childcare workers themselves.

In Kern County, where Ballesteros operates, 425 coronavirus cases have been reported in daycare. Los Angeles County leads the state with 2,702 cases. The state does not disclose the names of childcare centers that have been reported to have infections, as the Department of Social Services states that they are “exempt from disclosure” under state law.

Ana Ballesteros is sitting in Ana’s family childcare facility in Delano for a portrait with her granddaughter Ava Dominguez on February 26, 2021.Shae Hammond / CalMatters

Whether these numbers are good or bad is hard to say right now, said Dr. Ilan Shapiro, Pediatrician at AltaMed Health Services and Fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics. The circumstances in each center can be very different and there is as yet no reliable comparative data from other countries.

“In general, children need to be in such centers because it helps their social development and health,” Shapiro said. “It also creates a safety net for the kids.”

He encourages parents to learn what providers will do if they are exposed to the infection and ask what protocols they are following to prevent it: washing hands, wearing masks, taking temperatures, using protective equipment.

“We saw more cases. Children get sick, ”he said. “And we know that if we take care of each other at home and wear their masks to school (or daycare), wash their hands and do everything right that will reduce the risk of getting COVID.”

In California, childcare facilities have been able to stay open throughout the pandemic – in accordance with cleaning and social distancing guidelines. Scott Murray, spokesman for the Department of Social Services, wrote in an email: “Families need a safe place for their children while they work.”

Since the pandemic began, 2,160 California childcare facilities have closed permanently, representing a loss of 33,387 childcare places. Another 8,000 institutions – both large centers and family houses – have, according to a report Submitted to a Senate Budget Committee last month.

That poses a growing problem: an estimated one 60% of Californians already lived in a childcare desert before the pandemic.

“Losing more childcare facilities means even less access for working parents and their children,” said Kristin Schumacher, senior policy analyst at the California Budget & Policy Center, who made the estimate. “At some point we will overcome the pandemic and many parents have to look after their children. The economy cannot fully recover until the childcare infrastructure is in place to support children, parents and providers. “

The loss of childcare also has a direct impact on children. They could lose stable connections, be confused or fearful, and experience sadness, said Schumacher, who lost her own childcare for her 4-year-old when his childcare worker closed at the beginning of the pandemic.

Smaller family child carers have mostly kept their businesses open, said Keisha Nzewi, California director of public order Resource & Referral Network for childcare. But it was difficult, expensive and stressful for her.

“(Child carers) were scared all the time and followed the guidelines to a T, even if they keep changing,” Nzewi said. “They want to do everything possible to protect their children and families, but most of all they want to protect themselves and their own families.”

As of February 24, more than 12,000 coronavirus cases had occurred at 5,845 daycare centers, which is roughly a fifth of the state supply. Cases have been reported in both large centers and nursing homes where providers can care for up to 8 or 14 children in their personal residence, depending on size and staff.

While most childcare-related cases have occurred in adults, the number of COVID-19 cases in children has increased since the pandemic began. Initially, the federal centers for disease control and prevention reported that 2% of coronavirus cases occurred in children. The number has increased to 10%. Also, a small number of these children develop a rare one Multi inflammatory syndrome related to the virus.

“As a father, I understand the debate about what to do with our children and the delicate dance between science, fears and emotions,” said Shapiro, whose youngest child attended a daycare and only had a few weeks off at the height of the day Increase in January and early February. “I tell parents, ‘You have to put in place a system of taking care of everyone, including teachers, parents and children, to make sure everyone is safe.'”

A CalMatters review of the state Data shows that most cases occurred in larger day-care centers among employees. In family homes, the number of cases is now fairly evenly distributed among employees, children and their parents.

Researchers have found that childcare centers are not breeding grounds for the virus. During the first three months of the pandemic, according to a Yale University, childcare workers who stayed open were no more likely to get COVID-19 than providers who had closed study published last month in the journal Pediatrics.

The study reported that those who stayed open reported frequent hand washing and disinfecting surfaces. They also have a high rate of other infection control measures – such as daily checkups, physical distancing and keeping children in “cohorts”. The researchers found that black, Latin American, and indigenous caregivers – who make up a large proportion of child carers – tested positive at higher rates than other groups.

Nzewi said the trend is a reflection of the virus’ greater impact on color communities, and not because childcare is the cause.

Liberation from the state

Childcare advocates and a newly formed Child Care Providers United union were established Negotiations with the state to get more protection for childcare workers – including a one-time scholarship to increase costs related to pandemics and 16 additional paid non-operational days related to the virus, bringing the total to 40 per year.

Last week, Governor Gavin Newsom signed a stimulus package that included both benefits for carers for children receiving government-subsidized care.

But Ballesteros, the Delano childcare worker, said their November closure had already pushed them to the limit of subsidized non-operational days, even with additions from the stimulus package. She worries it will have to close again as the country celebrates the one year anniversary of the pandemic.

These concerns – along with frustration at the amount the state pays for subsidized childcare and limited assistance in implementing COVID-19 precautions – weigh on providers.

“We not only risk ourselves, we also risk our families,” said Ballesteros.

She said she took every precaution before she got sick: masks, social distancing, disinfecting her daycare, and asking parents about health and exposure. She waits for the children outside so parents don’t have to enter her house, created a space for children to put their belongings outside, and installed a sink outside to wash tiny hands on arrival.

A mother called Ballesteros a few days before Thanksgiving to say she wasn’t feeling well and had tested positive for coronavirus. This woman’s children had been at the center that day. The state licensing office recommended that she close it for a few days, Ballesteros said. But when she tested positive too, the local health department advised her to close for two weeks.

During that time, Ballesteros said, five children left her center so that only nine children were in her care and their incomes were cut significantly.

Nzewi called the grants a patch that will help for this month, but there are bigger issues that need to be addressed, including how little childcare workers are paid, especially through the state subsidy system. They get about $ 12 an hour on average. after their union.

Ballesteros said their costs increased by more than 50% to include cleaning supplies, extra tables and chairs for social distancing, improved WiFi for virtual learning, partitions and accessories to keep the kids busy. She also pays for a thorough cleaning once a month.

The state earmarked $ 50 million in cleaning supplies and grants early on, but those funds ran out by the end of the year.

“Hopefully we won’t get COVID back, which is why I’m so scared of it,” Ballesteros said. “It’s tight at the moment, but we can do it. But if that happens again, I don’t know if we can go on. “

CalMatters’ coverage of early childhood issues is supported by grants from First 5 Los Angeles and the Ralph M. Parsons Foundation.

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