Day care concerns as pediatricians report increase in illness among young kids

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MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) --- COVID-19 has been the major concern in classrooms for two years. Now, some pediatricians are seeing other illnesses coming back. Face masks are off in a lot of public places and that's impacting day care centers.

When young kids get sick, day cares are often the first impacted. Two years into the pandemic, some providers are still experiencing the pressures.

The pandemic has presented many challenges for day care centers like Little Leaders Learning Academy. "Teachers coming and going, enrollment became pretty low," said Tamara Pulley, one of the lead teachers.

She says at the start of the pandemic they had a lot of illness among staff. A similar experience for day care centers across the state. Some have even had to close because of COVID. "If there's a situation where a child is sick, that whole classroom is getting sanitized. If it's COVID, the classroom is getting shut down," said Pulley.

The risk of illness has also made it hard to keep staffing levels where they need. Without enough day care workers, they can't take in as many kids as they used to.

As they navigate that challenge, they're also preparing for future illnesses to hit the center as masks come off in the community. Health officials say they're seeing an increase in kids getting sick from illnesses other than COVID.

"As COVID cases are going down, I'm seeing a variety of illnesses due to viruses," said Dr. Mala Mathur, pediatrician with UW Health.

Dr. Mathur says there have been increases in things like upper respiratory infection, gastrointestinal illness, hand, foot and mouth disease, and strep throat. "A variety of things as we are opening back up and unmasking more and more," said Mathur.

Day care providers remain hopeful for the months ahead. "I find one of the ways to help us through is to make it fun. It's still a learning environment but to make it fun," said Pulley.

The biggest message from health officials is that COVID is not the only illness that poses a risk to children. As we enter a busy travel season, doctors urge parents to be cautious and continue taking steps to protect kids.

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