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LATEST UPDATES: Tracking COVID-19 (coronavirus)

While Schools Close, Some Daycare Providers Are Staying Open … For Now

Children play at the Magic Hour Preschool in Mira Mesa, Jan. 26, 2015.

Credit: Magic Hour Preschool

Above: Children play at the Magic Hour Preschool in Mira Mesa, Jan. 26, 2015.

While school districts were closed Monday due to the coronavirus, daycares across the county remained open.

At this point, daycares and preschools are able to make their own decisions about whether to close or remain open. They have information, but no direct guidance, from San Diego County's Health and Human Services Agency, the California Department of Public Health and the state's Child Care Licensing agency.

Things could change Tuesday after providers participate in an informational call scheduled with the state’s licensing agency. The county sent out a letter to childcare centers asking them to develop procedures to plan for the disease.

Holly Weber, who owns and runs Magic Hour Preschool in Mira Mesa, said she is staying open for now but is making the decision "minute by minute" about whether to close.

If someone in her center, which is licensed for 72 children, tests positive for the disease, or has been exposed to someone who has tested positive for the disease, she would close, she said. Otherwise, she's making the decision using guidance from government agencies.

Another consideration, she said, is that the disease appears not to have a big impact on young children. Data from several countries—including China, South Korea and Italy—indicate that no one under the age of 9 has died from the disease, and their symptoms if they do get it are often mild.

However, children can pass the disease on to their parents or grandparents.

"Lots of families have a second or third generation living in their home, so they've taken extra precautions and withdrawn children," Weber said.

While her center is open, Weber said they are maintaining the same healthy habits they always have. They include: washing hands several times a day, cleaning and sanitizing the classrooms, and closely monitoring the symptoms of children and parents. And parents are dropping off kids in the lobby instead of in classrooms.

If her daycare does close, Weber said there are "no words to describe the impact that could have."

"This business supports 12 households," she said. "I'm not sure how we could recover from that. We're a private entity, we don't get funding from the state."

She added that she also wants to stay open to support our community by continuing to provide care for parents who are scientists and doctors working to combat this disease.

Ginette Granados, the school's director, said that it's important to her the school stay open as long as it can for the mental well-being of its kids.

"This is a frightening time for children, they don't know what's happening, and every person they know, including their parents, is on edge," she said. "If we can provide a safe, sanitized space for them to just be children, that's the ultimate goal here."

University Heights resident Elizabeth McCann said her three-year-old son’s preschool was open as of Monday. But she said she and her husband were struggling with whether to send him.

"Kids don't seem to be getting the symptoms as badly, but obviously they can still pick up the virus and spread it around," she said. "Little kids are petri dishes anyways. We're worried about him spreading it to other people. We're very close with (James') grandparents but we've stopped physical contact with them."

McCann said she has been working from home but her husband can't. So, if James is home, it will be a challenge.

"I've talked to my manager to let him understand that my focus might not be 100 percent on work," she said.

A "COVID-19 Daily Schedule" for preschool kids at home has been circulating on the internet, but the day packed with walks, creative time, academic time and "afternoon fresh air" does not have any space for parents to do their work.

And, unlike parents of elementary school-age kids who can be occupied with activities for some stretches of time, toddlers require constant attention.

"As anyone who's ever had a young child, they don't really care if you say, 'honey I have to work right now,'" McCann said. "Usually with my son, the second he sees me opening my computer, that's when he wants to play with me and be in my lap."

She added that she might use some vacation time, and the American Academy of Pediatrics' device screen time recommendations "are probably going to be out the window."

Listen to this story by Claire Trageser.

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Claire Trageser
Investigative Reporter

opening quote marksclosing quote marksAs a member of the KPBS investigative team, my job is to hold the powerful in San Diego County accountable. I've done in-depth investigations on political campaigns, police officer misconduct and neighborhood quality of life issues.

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