307 kids in Texas-based day cares have tested positive for COVID-19, and the cases are only increasing
On Wednesday, the U.S. reported nearly 50,000 new coronavirus cases. As single-day records skyrocket, some states have reversed their re-openings in order to slow down the rapid spread of COVID-19. While cities across the U.S. have been asking restaurants, bars, and gyms to close up shop again, there’s been a rise of COVID-19 cases in a fairly unexpected place: day cares.
Texas Tribune reports that 307 kids in Texas-based childcare centers have been infected (along with 643 staff members) at 668 statewide locations — and the number of cases seems to be increasing. There are currently 12,207 licensed day care facilities that are open, but that may not be the case for much longer. According to Texas Tribune, COVID-19 cases in day care centers have gone from 59 in mid-May to a staggering 576 on June 23. Clearly, the virus has spread more easily in childcare centers than previously thought.
Just this week, the American Academy of Pediatrics advised that “all policy considerations for the coming school year should start with a goal of having students physically present in school,” so hearing that the virus is spreading in some day cares is unnerving to say the least. Dr. Sean O’Leary, a pediatrics infectious disease specialist at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus, recently spoke with The New York Times about why he believes kids needs to go back to school. O’Leary, who is a COVID-19 survivor himself, told the publication that, “This virus is different from most of the respiratory viruses we deal with every year. School-age kids clearly play a role in driving influenza rates within communities. That doesn’t seem to be the case with COVID-19. And it seems like in countries where they have reopened schools, it plays a much smaller role in driving spread of disease than we would expect.”
Dr. O’Leary even mentions that child care centers have not been considered COVID-19 hotspots, with only four positive cases in facilities in Colorado. “The kids in the centers are not spreading COVID-19. I’m hearing the same thing from other states, as well,” he said.
Although it’s unclear why Texas is seeing such a dramatic spike in COVID-19 cases stemming from day care facilities (as of now, no other states in the U.S. have experienced such an immediate, large outbreak in childcare centers alone), the numbers still point to the fact that it’s possible for childcare centers to spread the virus — as clearly shown by the Texas Tribune.
What does this mean for schools and childcare facilities across the U.S. that are being advised to welcome students back this fall? While the American Academy of Pediatrics argues that kids should be in school if possible, school administrators, teachers, and parents worry that having kids come to class while also following strict safety protocols (like social-distancing, consistently disinfecting surfaces, and taking every student’s temperature) may not be sustainable, and could dig into instructional time. Additionally, adult staffers are concerned about the ability to stay physically distanced from each other. With so many people congregating, wouldn’t it be possible for the virus to spread?
Dr. O’Leary responded to this in the NYT by saying, “We’re pediatricians. We’re not educators. We don’t want to tread in space where we don’t belong. But what I would say is it depends on the level of risk for the individual person. Every district I have talked to here in Colorado? They are making major considerations for their teachers, trying to figure out how to keep them safe.” He also added that masks have been proven to be effective in stopping the spread of COVID-19. “If they are taking as many precautions as they can, I think the risk is pretty low,” he added.
Back in late June, Texas reinstated safety protocols to make day care centers safer. Staff would be mandated to check temperatures of not only children, but adult employees as well. Parents have been asked to drop their kids outside, and family-style meals have been banned. Kim Kofron, executive director for the Texas Association for the Education of Young Children stated, “The requirements that came out yesterday will provide some clarity for centers because they know what to do.”
According to Texas Tribune, the state is failing to track which centers are following the rules, making matters even more scary and confusing for parents and educators. Kofron said, “I hope and pray that centers do the best thing for children, families and the people that work for them. And I hope and pray that the state does the best thing for child care centers.”