Day cares face challenges in coronavirus crisis

Danielle Horvath said her family’s day care provider is amazing, caring for her 5-year-old child and a 14-month-old toddler. The Prince William County resident and her husband can’t work remotely during the coronavirus crisis. Horvath is a contractor for the federal government deemed critical and her husband is a first responder.

“We heavily rely on our day care provider,” she told InsideNoVa over the phone Thursday.

Horvath said she doesn’t want to ask her parents, who live an hour away, to help with child care.

“We don’t want to risk my parents to venture out,” she said.

Parents in Northern Virginia who rely on day care — from infants to school-age children — have been impacted amid various calls for precautions against the spread of coronavirus.

Horvath said she’s thankful for everything her child care providers are doing, because some people still have to physically go to work.

“We’re still continuing to do our mission-critical work to keep our country safe,” she said. “We’ve been able to do that, because our day care is open.”

As of Thursday, the Virginia Department of Health has reported 11 cases of coronavirus in Prince William County, up from just four cases identified the previous day.

With school divisions closed throughout the region, parents have had to figure out how to care for children for weeks until schools reopen.

Quickly developing federal, state and local calls for precautions against the virus have meant daycare providers are facing more decisions on how to keep staff and children safe.

Headquartered in Prince William County, Minnieland Academy said its sites will remain open to serve families who still rely on child care.

Emily King, engagement director for Minnieland, told InsideNoVa on Thursday the day care provider has decided to stay open, because parents, such as first responders, essential government personnel, healthcare workers and more, are still relying on child care.

“We are providing people [the chance] to report to work so they can fight this virus, because without them we can’t do this,” King said.

The centers have seen a 50% decrease in the number of children attending, she said, which has helped them abide by a state limit of 10 people to a room.

Minnieland Academy also sits fewer kids at a table during lunchtime, she said. Day care workers are encouraging kids to stretch, dance or try yoga, and ramping up hand washing, she said. The academy has also made changes to its pick up and drop off procedure.

And Minnieland Academy has asked all employees to stay home if they’re sick, King said.

“We’re telling staff, they still have a job, even if they’re nervous, they can stay home,” she said.

State officials have said they plan to provide resources to daycares, but King said they haven’t yet seen that support.

Alexy Hall, owner of Animated Child Center in Montclair, said she had to make the difficult decision to close her daycare March 13. She said her dream is to take care of children.

The CDC warned COVID-19 was believed to be spread from people in close contact or within six feet. “How do you manage that as a center?” Hall said. “Health officials are not OK with kids in school, but what about day care?”

Hall said she felt the safety of day care centers was an afterthought, because she couldn’t maintain social distancing at the center. She said care for children five years and under was left out of emergency plans for a pandemic. Hall said the Virginia Department of Health should provide protective gear for childcare workers who are still working to care for families such as first responders and other people who have to go to work.

With her child care center closed, Hall said 15 people aren’t working — they’re among more than 10,000 people who have filed for unemployment in recent days in Virginia.

“My heart bleeds for everyone in our field,” Hall said.

Horvath said her daycare provider has implemented safety precautions, such as increased hand washing and gloves for parents as they log in. Parents also don’t take their children to their classroom, she said.

“They’re trying as much as possible to clean the facility,” she said.

Horvath said she and her husband are only going out if necessary, such as to work or to the grocery store, and she recognizes day cares are having to face the uncertain future the rest of the region is seeing.

“If they close, we’ll understand.”


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