Milwaukee health officials give guidance on child care safety protocols amid pandemic
MILWAUKEE, Wis. (CBS 58) - On Thursday, June 25, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett and area health officials provided an update on the future of area child care programs as they navigate the new normal. The Wisconsin Department of Children and Families says more than 25-percent of child care programs in the state are expected to close permanently due to COVID-19.
The Wisconsin Family Childcare Association says between day-to-day expenses, enrollment numbers down and the constant changing of rules and regulations, child care providers in the state have struggled to keep up.
“I know times have been unpredictable and regulations and practices to meet the safety of everyone changes,” said Chanel Clark with Wisconsin Early Childhood Association.
Dozens of child care workers, teachers and operators attended the webinar hosted by the Milwaukee Health Department. The webinar aimed to tackle issues surrounding child care facilities operating during the pandemic, which include social distancing, reducing contact with parents and disinfecting often.
“Child care will never be the same, it’s a lot of work, it’s a lot of patience, but if you have a lot of support you can get through this,” said Annette Wilburn, a Milwaukee in-home licensed child care provider.
Milwaukee is currently on phase three of the reopening plan. Child care centers can operate at 50-percent capacity while in-home child care can operate at 100-percent capacity.
“We understand the impact financially, as well as operationally that the day cares had to go through,” says Marlaina Jackson, Milwaukee Deputy Commissioner of Community Health.
“We are interested in making sure that our kids certainly are safe and the people who work with our kids are safe,” said Milwaukee Mayor, Tom Barrett.
In order to reduce risk of COVID-19 transmission for staff, kids and families, doctors on the call say child care operators should wear masks, sanitize often and minimize interaction.
“Minimize interactions with parents coming in and how they interact with staff, make sure staff are protected, parents are protected, and perhaps have smaller groups of children who interact with children constantly,” adds Dr. Laura Cassidy from the Medical College of Wisconsin.
To navigate the pandemic, the Wisconsin Early Childhood Association suggest providers break kids up into smaller groups, come up with a facility closing plan in case of an outbreak, and plan for staffing issues in case an employee gets sick.
“Making sure our staff are healthy and ready to come to work everyday and doing health and safety checks on our kids before they come in the door,” said Jeanne Labana with the Wisconsin Early Childhood Association.
”The one thing that really keeps me going is my children,” said Wilburn.
Under the next phase of the Moving Milwaukee Forward Safely plan, child care centers will be able to operate at 75% capacity. Jackson says an update on phase four will be announced Friday.