Child care facilities across Ohio can only operate beginning today with a special pandemic operating license, which mandates cleaning regiments and restrictions on the number of children.
The impact the health department order has on their business models won’t be known until they begin operations, some operators said.
The outbreak of the novel coronavirus, known as COVID-19, has forced Ohio and other states to order non-essential businesses to shut down or restrict its access to the public. Essential businesses have modified their operations to prevent the spread of the deadly virus.
Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine ordered that child care centers starting today must operate under a “Temporary Pandemic Child Care” license. Hundreds of child care facilities have been granted the license, including dozens in southwest Ohio.
Centers are also restricted to one teacher and six children in a single room. If a shared space is used, the child-to-teacher ratio must be six-to-one, and staff must keep a meticulous cleaning schedule. Social distancing of at least six feet must be followed.
The order is in effect until April 30, and could be extended.
Lakota Family YMCA CEO John Schaller said the daycare at his facility typically has a one teacher to 18 children ratio with a maximum capacity of 140 children. But since the orders and measures by DeWine and public health Director Dr. Amy Acton, many parents have kept their children home, he said.
“Obviously, the pandemic child care license was created to minimize the number of places that children can be,” Schaller said. “I think part of the rule changes is for all-around safety.”
Last week, the DeWine administration ordered daycares to give priority to any child of several priority careers, including health care workers, first responders, nursing home workers and children services workers.
“It’s all about trying to reduce the contact you have around you,” Schaller said.
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DeWine said the closure of child care facilities posed an “obvious concern” when large numbers of children are in a single room.
“Little kids share everything,” he wrote in a Twitter post. “It is time to move to the next stage — our goals are to keep kids, families and workers safe.”
The number of children in daycares has dropped, according to DeWine. According to a Twitter post, kids in Ohio-subsidized daycares went from 117,000 to 17,000 following intial changes due to coronavirus. It’s unknown how many children are in private daycare facilities, he said.
“This is a dramatic change, but it’s necessary to minimize the risk to these kids,” the governor said.
First Baptist Church Day Care is one of the private child care facilities and is one of the 31 Butler County centers with a temporary pandemic child care license.
First Baptist Day Care Director Cyndi Sparks said the only noticeable impact of the temporary license for the daycare is the reduction of children in a single room. But she said the daycare on Riverview Avenue in Middletown has enough room to accommodate as they’re getting more calls with other area centers closing during the pandemic.
“We have the classroom space, and we also have plenty of staff,” said Sparks. Teachers and children will begin eating in their rooms on Friday.
Sparks also said they’ve “picked up the pace” on their already diligent cleaning regiment.
Parents will not be allowed into First Baptist’s daycare. At the Lakota YMCA, anyone entering the door will have their temperatures taken, and parents are not allowed past a table 3 feet from the front entrance.
There are 31 daycare facilities in Butler County, and 17 in Warren County, that will be able to operate under the “Temporary Pandemic Child Care” license. The Ohio Department of Job and Family Services updates the list daily on its website, jfs.ohio.gov/CDC.
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