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KPBS Midday Edition Special: COVID-19 And The Childcare Crisis

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For many parents of young children, the pandemic has made childcare the most challenging issue of their lives. For some who have kept their kids home, caregiving has affected their ability to work. For others who don’t have the option to work at home the health risk posed by sending their child to day care has to be weighed against loss of income. And, the childcare centers and the people who operate them have lost income and are struggling to stay open. KPBS Investigative reporter Claire Trageser has been focusing on this issue and brings us this special program, “COVID-19 And The Childcare Crisis.”

Speaker 1: 00:00 Today, we bring you a special on the crisis of childcare during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Speaker 2: 00:06 What has happened in this cause of the burden has all been on childcare. It'd be the answer for other people to go to work.

Speaker 1: 00:13 I'm Maureen Kavanaugh. This is KPBS mid day edition. We'll examine how the burden of this crisis has fallen largely on women. Even if it doesn't bother you, that women are being systematically pushed out of the workforce. Women who are likely to be coming up with vaccines and therapeutics and treatment

Speaker 2: 00:38 Are being systematically pushed out of the work.

Speaker 1: 00:41 How childcare providers and educators are disproportionately feeling the effects of COVID-19 and what role do childcare and preschool play in reopening our economy. That's a head on mid day edition.

Speaker 1: 01:00 For many parents of young children. The pandemic has made childcare the most challenging issue of their lives. For some who have kept their kids home caregiving has affected their ability to work for others who don't have the option to work at home. The health risks posed by sending their child to daycare has to be weighed against loss of income and the childcare centers and the people who operate them have lost income and are struggling to stay open KPBS. Investigative reporter Claire Traeger has been focusing on this issue and brings us this special program COVID-19 and the childcare crisis. Here's Claire. With more,

Speaker 3: 01:40 Since the start of the pandemic, I've done several stories about childcare in doing these stories. I was reminded over and over that. There's been a lot of media coverage of K through 12 schools and universities, but there was very little about childcare centers and preschools. And that really seems to always be the case even before the pandemic. So I focus my stories on this age group and the unique challenges they face. For example, kids that young may have a hard time washing hands or social distancing and wearing a mask. But at the same time, some centers stayed open throughout the pandemic, unlike schools for older kids. And now they're facing a new challenge childcare centers across the region, and the country are struggling to stay open, which could create a crisis for parents in the future. And this is something that we're seeing getting more and more national attention right now as well. So this panel will delve into these issues and because this is relevant to the topic, I should note that I'm also the mother of a three year old, who is now back at his preschool. He's been back for about a month, um, with lots of new rules and restrictions. No one believes me that he wears a mask all day, but he does. And he washes his hands about 20 times a day, I think. Um, so,

Speaker 4: 03:00 You know, that's where I'm coming from on this topic. So to start, I wanted to ask each of the panelists to introduce themselves and answer a simple question. Should childcare centers be open right now, Randy, if you want to get started, you can go first.

Speaker 5: 03:18 Sure. Hi everyone. My name is Randy Olam. I am a father of a one and a three year old and absolutely childcare centers need to be open. Um, I mean we all expect to get our trash taken, go to the grocery store and get food. A lot of those essential workers, they have kids and they need help with childcare. So too, to some extent, childcare centers do need to be accessible to two people.

Speaker 4: 03:43 Dr. Phil and Miller. Do you want to go next? Yeah. I'm Rebecca fielding Miller. I'm a social epidemiologist at UC San Diego, which means I study all the ways, social things like our jobs and our economics and our race, put some people at higher risk of getting sick than others. And we certainly see that in COVID. Um, I also am the mother of a three year old. Her birthday was yesterday, so she's officially three. Um, and she has been back at an official childcare center also for about a month. So yeah, I'd be, I'd be a hypocrite to say no, I think, um, yeah, I, I do think it's essential that childcare should be open. Um, and even beyond that, I think we need to be really thoughtful about what we're prioritizing when we reopened. And I think childcare should certainly be among our top priorities. And then we have, uh, Leah Austin. Who's joining us from Berkeley. Go ahead and introduce yourself.

Speaker 5: 04:38 Hi, I'm Leah Austin. I'm the director of the center for the study of childcare employment at the university of California, Berkeley. Um, I'm also a mom. I have two third graders who, um, are in distance learning and, um, not using our before and afterschool childcare that we have been using, um, pre pandemic. Um, and I will say that it's a simple question. And I think it's a really complicated answer. I think that childcare and school closure is definitely hardworking parents, but what has happened in this pandemic cause of the burden has fallen on childcare to be the answer for other people to go to work rather than examining what we should be doing to make sure that workers across occupations can sustain themselves. You know, right now it is the case that most K-12 schools are foes for distance learning and not just out of concern for children's family and health, but also for their teachers.

Speaker 5: 05:30 And these teachers in public school, we know are largely white middle class and unionize. And they've said quite loudly, you know, I care about my students, but I'm not willing to risk my life for them. And that sounds reasonable to me. So I think we have to ask why unlike K-12 childcare programs are open in the middle of the pandemic. And part of that is looking at who our early educators are for the most part childcare operators are women more than half of the, and programs are women of color as a group, they earn less than nearly all other workers in California. And they're experiencing poverty at rates that are six times out of our public school teachers. So there's nothing that makes childcare teachers, the less susceptible to COVID at an actually they may be more at risk because many are from experiencing economic insecurity.

Speaker 5: 06:18 They're from black and Latino communities, which are facing the highest risk of dying from COVID-19 in California. So I think we can't ignore the role that the historical undervaluing of work performed by women and by people of color has in creating these, these conditions. And it's also the case that, you know, unlike public school, that childcare is largely based on market. So money that comes into programs is largely from what parents are paying. So we know from surveys that we've done, um, demonstrated of open programs, we surveyed this past summer 80% reported. They were open because they don't have the resources to survive a closure, even if they want it to be closed. And that one in five had already missed a rent or mortgage payment on their program. So in other words, they're open because, you know, they need a roof over their head and childcare providers want to be open and serving kids, but they also want to be safe and to have the resources to support themselves and stabilize themselves. And so I think there's some important questions we have to ask about what type of stabilization funds we need to support and protect the sector and the workforce and providers, um, at the same time and really, you know, how do we support parents, um, simultaneously, and also ask a really important question about why it's been accepted acceptable to ask largely low income women of color to risk their health and possibly their, their own lives were an average of $13 an hour.

Speaker 3: 07:46 Holly Weber. Do you want to introduce yourself as well?

Speaker 5: 07:50 Yeah, of course. My name is Holly and I own and operate magic hour to children's center in San Diego. We are a licensed facility through the state of California that accepts ages 24 months to kindergarten.

Speaker 3: 08:04 And so let's start with, uh, Randy, tell us more about your two kids and how you've managed to care for them since March.

Speaker 5: 08:12 So, um, my kids have been back in daycare since about early July. And, uh, prior to that, it was just working from home. Um, both parents working from home and the kids home, it was, it was chaos. I, every day I just, it, it was, it was very challenging. I, I did, you know, it wasn't until maybe mid day where things kind of settled on. I thought with the kids' moods were, and, uh, you know, when they were both asleep, but I was able to kind of rest and catch up. But yeah, since, since then the kids have been, well, you know, everyone has been healthy and it really helps that we were able to, um, find a childcare provider that was in tune. And in addition to the families like the, that we

Speaker 6: 08:56 Share our childcare provider with, we've been together for several years now, uh, many years now. So it's good to know the families know that we're on the same page now that we're trying to keep each other healthy in addition to, um, talk to provider cause it's an at home daycare. So, you know, we are putting her own family at risk and she's got two kids as well. So yeah, it definitely helps that we were able to find a childcare center and with, um, with other families that we really trusted.

Speaker 4: 09:27 Yeah. And that's even, that's an in home daycare. So small group of kids.

Speaker 6: 09:32 Yeah. There are, uh, it fluctuates, but at the very, it goes from three to five different families. You know, some families have two kids in there like us while the kids just have one.

Speaker 4: 09:44 And then, um, Rebecca, tell us about your daughter and how you've managed care for her. And then also what you weighed as an epidemiologist when you were deciding to send her back to childcare. Yeah. So I think we tried about every variant that every parent has tried, um, since hers, uh, daycare shut down. So we started off, I think for the first week everybody got a test and we, we went to my parents and we just begged my parents. Like please just watch our kid for a week. We'll be back. And that was great. Um, but my parents live three and a half hours away and they, um, wanted to be retired. Um, so, you know, we got her back and that was fine. And then my husband and I traded off mornings and afternoons. So I would be with her in the mornings. And then in the afternoon I would, um, teach research methods and try to get any work done and be up until 10 working.

Speaker 4: 10:36 And then Fridays and Saturdays, I would just hide in my office, um, at UCS all day long, um, that lasted a few weeks and it turns out that's not really sustainable. Um, everybody was exhausted, nobody was happy except my kid. She liked it. So at which point we got a babysitter, um, and we had, um, a local 16 year old who was out of school because it was the summer, um, come and watch my daughter for most of the day, except for nap time. And we felt pretty reasonable about that. Um, because we know that 16 year olds are probably lower little bit lower risk as far as babysitters go. Um, and she was in the neighborhood and she was great and my kid loved her, but it was time to have fewer people in my home so that I could get work done because I live in San Diego and my house is small. Um, so we decided that we needed a longer term solution, especially as high school opened again and in schools began to reopen. So we looked around at our options and I had really loved our previous childcare. It was going to reopen, but I was not comfortable with the, I didn't know enough about the ventilation system. Um, and it has become increasingly clear that aerosols are

Speaker 7: 11:54 A major part of how this spreads, so touching surfaces and then touching your face is definitely also a possibility, but it's become pretty clear that this is functionally airborne. And so when I was thinking about childcare, I was thinking about how can I make sure my kid is outside as much as possible with as much fresh circulating air in as few families as possible. So we got really lucky and it turns out literally a three minute walk from my house is a home base is a licensed home based care center that is entirely outdoors there. Um, Farrell at this point, she just comes home filthy and so happy. And they're just, they're outside all day long. They take their naps outside, they eat outside. There's usually no more than 10 kids. And the parents all have kind of signed a COVID pack that are pretty transparent with one another. So, um, they don't wear masks, but I felt like that was a good, um, that was a good risk level for me. And frankly, to do my job as an epidemiologist, I needed care. And so there was kind of a bit of a mental health tradeoff for that too.

Speaker 3: 12:59 And then Holly you're, I, I remember talking to you back in March, just as schools were closing and we said, Oh, you're, you know, your preschool has stayed open. And then I kept checking in and it was still open and it was still open. So you stayed open during the entire pandemic. How did you make that decision and what has it been like? What, what changes have you made?

Speaker 7: 13:23 It was easy to make the decision to stay open for, for, for us. We had parents that needed to work. We've always considered ourselves to be essential without having it mean to be substantiated from the powers that be. We knew that we wanted to be here. Uh, staff wanted to help parents needed the care. I had overhead obligations. I mean, it was kind of really a no brainer to continue to put one foot in front of another and keep going.

Speaker 3: 13:51 I imagine that you have had to make a lot of changes during, during that time. Can you summarize some of, some of the changes that you've made?

Speaker 7: 13:58 Yeah. Um, primarily the grip sizes, um, the decrease of, of smaller group sizes for our kiddos and the increase in staffing. So we had gone from a two to 24 ratio, which means that in our environment, we have very large, um, classrooms that had a capacity for up to 24 children with two staff. And what we instantly had to do is reduce that down to group sizes of 10. And we had to what was right for us, triple our staff, to be able to accommodate appropriate, um, schedules, to accommodate pickup and drop off procedures and make some minor alterations to the classroom, put up dividers. Uh, lots of things have changed at the core of, of what we continue to do is remain the same. And I know, I mean,

Speaker 3: 14:52 You've talked about that by doing that. You're obviously not having the same profit margins that you used to, or maybe you're, you're losing money. So can you explain more about that? And, um, you know, whether you, you still feel like your business is going to be able to be sustainable?

Speaker 5: 15:11 Well, when I first, when we first started, I mean, I had no idea how long this was going to last and I've operated this facility for 30 years. So we've been through ups and downs. We've some sustained, some blows we have had, um, you know, incidents change of ownerships and we've had physical layout issues that rendered us not able to operate for two weeks at a time. So I'd gone, I've gone through ups and downs before. And I had no idea, you know, somebody had said, it's September, and we're going to have this panel and talk about this. I would not have expected it to go that far. So I think in the operation of staying open, you just kind of get deeper and deeper and more rooted and invested in the challenge. And then you find yourself indebted to, you know, for the expenses. Uh, you also find yourself very emotionally invested in it, not getting the best of what we've worked very hard to sustain for 30 years. So yeah, there's a lot of, of, uh, economic disaster that is occurred and I'm in it. I can't stop now, can't go back.

Speaker 3: 16:25 Um, and, and Leah, this, you know, seems to relate directly to some of the survey work that you've done. Can you summarize specifically the results for Southern California?

Speaker 5: 16:36 Sure. So we, um, have conducted a couple of surveys once in the spring, and then again, the summer of childcare providers across the state and, um, our first survey in April, and we look at the Southern region, which does include San Diego, it's similar in Mount Santoni. So some of what we found, um, for the state as a whole, which just echoes, I think what Holly just described that programs are facing severe financial challenges. Um, at the same time that they're worried about, you know, health risk and, and teachers, how often staff and parents, um, 69% of programs in the Southern region that we surveyed reported that they had a loss of revenue from families who were unable to pay, which is not totally surprising. So some of that were families withdrawing, some programs were still serving families, but families were not able to pay either for, um, partial fees or tuition.

Speaker 5: 17:32 Most programs have had to make some staffing changes of some kind about a third have reported that they furloughed staff and about a third had laid off style. In addition to that, you know, 60% of the respondents in the Southern California region reported difficulty obtaining basic like supplies and PPE supplies and 70% indicated that they would like and needed help with meaning grants and purchasing supplies. Um, and I think a sign of just how severe the financial crunch in the financial crisis is for many programs among those open programs in the region that we surveyed one in five reported difficulty in obtaining the food that they need for their childcare program. So there's the health and safety supplies, just the regular things you need on a daily basis, but also just signaling that there's some real, there's some there's, there's a lot of financial distress.

Speaker 1: 18:31 This is KPBS midday edition, I'm Maureen Kavanaugh. We continue a special program today on COVID-19 and the childcare crisis KPBS investigative reporter, Claire Traeger, sir, moderates the panel, which includes dr. Lee Austin director of the center for the study of child care employment at UC Berkeley. She's also a mom to two third graders, Rebecca fielding Miller and assistant professor at UC San Diego school of medicine's division of infectious diseases and global public health and mother of a three year old, Randy Lum, a scientist husband, and father of two children aged one and three, and Holly Webber, the owner and operator of magic hour's children's center. And here is Claire chair gasser with more,

Speaker 4: 19:18 Uh, Rebecca, I wanted to lean on your expertise here as an epidemiologist. Can you talk a little bit about the infection rates with adults and children and whether staff particularly at childcare centers would be at greater risk? Yeah, that's really the million dollar question. And, you know, I think everything that dr. Austin, that Leah has said about how the primarily women from primarily minoritized backgrounds are the ones doing this work, um, and how they're also more likely to live in circumstances where it was crowded housing or multigenerational homes. I think it's important to think about not only the, um, the sort of one-to-one you're with a kid who costs in your eyes as mine did the other day, um, kind of situation, but also because we systematically undervalued and underpaid this work, these primarily women are more likely to be in situations where they are more likely to get infected just in their day to day as well.

Speaker 4: 20:19 That said, I know that how infectious our kids is kind of the million dollar question right now. Um, and data are kind of still emerging. And my read of the data that we have right now, my interpretation is it looks like kids are probably a little bit less likely to get infected as adults, um, but not dramatically less, but if they clearly get less sick, right, they're much, they're much more likely to be asymptomatic with some very, very rare, dramatic exceptions. Um, and can they spread it to other adults or other kids? That's a really, really big question, Mark, but you know, from what I have seen my guess is kids probably don't spread it very well and they don't get sick, but that is kind of an educated interpretation of the data we have to date. And that's a big, that's a lot of conditional staff people to make choices on for $13 an hour. Right. Um, so, so we, I wanted to get back now to what you were talking about early on about staff at childcare centers and their concerns over going back to work. What have you heard from people and, and what specifically would they like to be done?

Speaker 5: 21:38 We, um, have definitely heard concerns both from the surveys that we've done and some ongoing sessions we've been hosting with people working in various different settings homes and centers, but from our survey, for example, uh, per 67, 62% of providers reported that they have staff who are not working because they have concerns about their own health risks. So we know, you know, as, as, uh, Rebecca was describing that there's, there are added health risks for the population who are providing early care and education services. We know, you know, in California, which is true nationally, that childcare providers are often less likely to have health coverage than other workers. And so that's a real concern, you know, what happens if I get sick? Do I have health coverage? What about my family? So there are some real concerns just about that immediate exposure. And I think, you know, there are things that we we can call for and that can be done if childcare is open, you know, and I do think that we have to talk about, you know, public investment, uh, to stabilize programs, whether they're closed or open so that we can have a stable system longterm.

Speaker 5: 22:50 But I do think that, you know, parents and providers have a real shared interest here and can be, you know, powerful can, can help put pressure to make these issues, legislative issues to have immediate responses. And some of the emergency funds both at a national and federal level. You know, we know that people want in need PBE supplies in sanitizing supplies, um, and they need them and they need access to them. Um, early educators need testing. They need to be able to get testing quickly and on a regular basis, they need to have sick leave and guaranteed sick leave. If they have to be out, if there's an exposure or they have to quarantine and other guaranteed health coverage for themselves and their families, if they do get sick, uh, we have seen other communities, nobody is doing this perfectly in this country, um, or particularly well for that matter, but we have seen other places experiment with us and, and prioritize

Speaker 7: 23:46 Some of these needs in New Mexico. For example, they're providing healthcare to childcare workers to make sure that at the very least that, that, that is in place and doing more around testing. So I think these are things that people need and they need them now, as they're providing services in real time,

Speaker 3: 24:06 Holly, I wanted to ask you, have you had teachers or other staff who didn't want to work during the pandemic and, and how did you handle that?

Speaker 7: 24:16 My staff had been unwavering from day one. Not even they'd worked for free at this time. I mean, I've been so lucky. I don't even like saying I, because we have really literally all decided together as a group that we've got this and, and we're going to do it together. So I've been very fortunate to not have that be an issue for my building.

Speaker 3: 24:40 And we have talked a little bit about in San Diego County, they're trying to do a small thing that, that Lee is talking about, where they're offering grants specifically to child care providers to try and make up some of the money. I don't, that doesn't necessarily go towards staff or healthcare, but w what, what has been your experience with that, with that grant program?

Speaker 7: 25:03 I applied for it on the, um, opening day of applications, and now I'm waiting, um, I'm looking forward to some relief it's based on a certain dollar amount. Um, there's a, uh, from what I understand, there's an allotment of a dollar amount, specific dollar amount for the amount of children that I have in licensed capacity. So, um, if I did the math on that, it would scratch the surface for about a week, but I'll take it. I made it so I'll be appreciative for it. Um, but just to scale it, it would, it would cover about a week and a half and to payroll, maybe,

Speaker 3: 25:45 Are there other things that you think that, you know, federal state, local governments could be doing to, to help out providers like you?

Speaker 7: 25:54 Yeah. County and state, uh, I wish they would prioritize our industry differently. We are providing top level care and we're not getting support. We need expedited relief from those who regulate our industry. We can't be this essential and this little regarding, we are also to my knowledge and to my capacity of thinking the only industry that can't reinvent their business model. I can't offer care virtually. I can't change a diaper through zoom. I can't do curbside service. There are other businesses that have been able to make do by reinventing the wheel. And that is never an option for this industry. So I I'm intrigued with Rebecca's home daycare. That's, it's gotta be very special circumstances because I have to adhere to compliance concerns with community care licensing. Um, the department of health, it would be unfathomable for me to have the children take a nap outside with our current setting, my business, and this building is designed to accommodate growth and development for children, both indoor and outdoor. So I can't change the business model. I can't bend with this and the County and the state make sure that I don't. So I need some help and we need it quickly. We have, we've talked a little bit about, you know, how this is disproportionately impacting women and lower income women and women of color. We were talking a little bit about governments, but what could parents do to help as they make decisions about their children's care?

Speaker 5: 27:34 Oh, I think, um, some of the things I mentioned about what providers need, I think that again, parents are a powerful constituency and I think, uh, being advocates and calling for your local and state leaders and policy makers to provide those things for your providers and your children who are in those programs is definitely something parents can be doing. I also think, you know, long term that, um, you know, we, we have to have public investment in early care and education, just the model of providing services. It wasn't working very well pre pandemic, and the rug has just been pulled out from the sector out as Holly described, you know, it's crippling. And so I think that calling for longterm changes and investment is, is definitely something parents can be doing and working with providers to build advocacy, uh, around this. And then I think, you know, in the immediate, what you can do as a parent, if you're using childcare is just really consider your risk factors and those for your child on a daily basis.

Speaker 5: 28:42 Right. And really just be thinking of, be thoughtful. We heard a lot of open comments in our survey, more open comments than I've ever had in any research survey we've ever done. I mean, people, providers had a lot to say and clearly want to be heard, and there were so much about just the worry and not sure what's happening outside of their program, that you can't control what other people are doing. And so I would just really say, you know, ask yourself daily, you know, have you been to a social gathering, a family gathering with people outside your home that you don't know what maybe they've been doing? Um, have you been exposed even if you don't have symptoms? Um, and if you answer yes to those things, you have to skip bringing your kid to childcare, um, until you know, that you're in the clearer, um, and that your provider can, can be tested as well.

Speaker 7: 29:30 Um, Randy, I wanted to ask you, we were talking a bit about, um, their, you know, outside activities or other things that you had in addition to childcare.

Speaker 3: 29:42 It seems like maybe those are, are just gone for good. What has been your experience with those?

Speaker 6: 29:48 So my son was in a preschool, um, previous to COVID that closed down for obvious reasons. And then not only did it not reopen, they said that they're never going to reopen. And so I've been in touch with some of the parents and the, and the faculty since then. And they're scrambling. I mean, as parents, you know, you, you really are invested where, where you put your child because you want to put your child and in a good, in a good environment and environment that you would want to be in yourself. So these teachers and the, the director, so they, I know they're actively trying to reopen, but at the same time, I'm sure, you know, everyone's asking the same question. It's like, well, how easy is that? Is that going to be, you know, not only with finding a facility, but making sure it's up to code, you know, meets all the health guidelines and it's going to pass all the inspections that I'm sure there, they would have to go to.

Speaker 6: 30:42 So, I mean, we all felt for them during the event and even now after, but, um, but yeah, I mean, we just got the rug, you know, talking about the rug pulled out under you. And it was just that we were expecting, we were getting active emails saying like, we're going to be opening in a couple of weeks. And then all of a sudden out of the blue, an email with, with no texts, just an attachment that said we're not reopening from the owner of the establishment. And so at that point, everyone was just like, I'm sure there's a story going on back here. And so, yeah, we don't know the full story, but we kind of have some ideas, but we were lucky that we were able to fall back on the daycare provider that we had miles in previous to the preschool. Luckily some of the preschool kids are at this daycare and I still see some of his preschool friends outside of the daycare. And yeah, I just kind of chat and see like, so how are, how are you doing? How did you deal with all the stress? How are you managing? And I mean, it's just, it's all over the place. And everyone's just scrambling.

Speaker 3: 31:40 I'm wondering as the, as the last question before we get to audience questions, Randy, as a parent on this panel, have you heard anything that has changed your decision making in any way?

Speaker 6: 31:52 Um, maybe not change. One thing is definitely reinforces what we just talked about that since, you know, if we open ourselves up in one way by going to daycare and you know, anyone who has kids in daycare like previously, we had a cold continuously, so we were just always sick. And then we went through this paperwork, like we haven't had a cold for awhile. And so, you know, carrying that through now, it's like, okay, we do need to be very cautious of what decisions we make. And, you know, luckily it's not like we're stopping doing something that we really like doing. Cause we've already completely ignored. Like we cannot do all the things that we used to do. So it's nothing drastic, but it definitely, it does warrant us to just pause and remember that it's not just our family's health, that's

Speaker 5: 32:40 At risk it's everyone that we touch.

Speaker 1: 32:53 This is KPBS mid day edition. I'm Maureen Kavanaugh in the final segment of our special on COVID-19 and the childcare crisis. We'll hear questions from audience members, KPBS, investigative reporter, Claire Traeger, sir, is joined by panel members, dr. Lee, Austin, Rebecca fielding Miller, Randy Lum and daycare center owner Holly Webber.

Speaker 4: 33:15 This question is from Matthew. And how has this disproportionately affected women? How many women need to drop out of the workforce due to workplace inflexibility and Leah, I don't know if you have specific numbers on that or Rebecca, if you have, you know, your own experience that you've been talking about?

Speaker 5: 33:35 Well, I think what we do know, and I don't have the specific numbers for California in front of me, but I think, you know, there is a lot of research, um, again, pre pandemic and then in the middle of the pandemic that does demonstrate that a lack of childcare impacts, uh, working moms. Um, the most that it, it inhibits our ability to work full time or work at all. And that it's been working moms who have been more likely to completely drop out of the workforce, um, in order to provide childcare, this pattern existed pre pandemic, and it's been magnified and exacerbated, uh, in this crisis. And I think one of the things about this, this crisis is we have with, you know, childcare needing to be available and moms, you know, predominantly, you know, women who are impacted by the lack of childcare. It's like, we've put it in these two groups of women against each other, because there's basically been a policy failure to address working parents and childcare providers in the middle of this crisis.

Speaker 4: 34:40 And, you know, we do have data from, um, a very particular niche, but there's, um, studies have been done showing that, um, women, um, I believe economists and physicians, we're seeing systematically less research has been done by women, um, in the past nine months. So women have been less likely to publish studies than their male counterparts. Um, and if you look at the biotech workforce is, is literally half or a little bit majority women, um, even if it doesn't bother you, that women are being systematically pushed out of the workforce, um, women who are likely to be coming up with vaccines and therapeutics and treatment are being systematically pushed out of the workforce because our biotech workforce is women. I agree with everything Leah just said. I think that there has been, I think a lot of mental health impacts both on working moms who suddenly to do everything

Speaker 7: 35:38 Full time, but also when you think about women who, um, worked at home, taking care of their kids, there were a million different respites from that, right. You could go to the zoo for a minute. And so I think that there is an enormous systematic impact on working women that we can document in, in each given field. But I think there have been, um, some pretty across the board, uh, intense impacts on, on all women who are caregivers, which is a lot of us. Yeah. This question, what can we as employers do to help working parents manage through these difficult times? And I don't know, uh, Leah, maybe if you have, have recommendations on, on that

Speaker 5: 36:26 Certainly flexibility, um, providing as much flexibility as possible, um, in some jobs where people certainly can't be working from home, um, and you know, people who are working in grocery stores as Randy described, there are so many other categories of essential workers. Um, where are the opportunities to be flexible there, uh, to ensure that people can work alternative shifts if they need to, if they need to trade with, you know, partners or other family members, um, and providing support, providing support for childcare, um, you know, we've again, seen some things happen in this crisis and other States, um, uh, where they've tried to, uh, some States like Rhode Island was doing this, where they were having a system as their entire state closed childcare, um, where they were trying to help, uh, people utilize one-on-one services that you have one character giver coming into your home. And so, you know, childcare support can be provided to do that as well. Um, so there there's many ways, I think employers can be financially supporting access to services that parents, um, so desperately need as well as really making those accommodations, um, and balancing and offering paid leave. I am very lucky that I work for, I'm very privileged to work for university of California. They extended extra paid leave so that people could take that administrative leave to be home. Um, for any number of reasons, uh, in this crisis,

Speaker 7: 38:01 This question I think, would be best for Holly at kind of a specific question. Do you have recommendations for staff if a child starts presenting COVID symptoms during the day, while in care? So if there are symptoms of illness, there's, um, protocol that we have, there's a, the counties provided to decision tree, um, which helps us kind of guide through symptoms of illness. Um, pediatric support to determine if it's a chronic illness such as maybe asthma or allergies. So there's a system put in place for, there are, that are put in place for it. And their, um, what, what is expected is that if there is a symptom of illness, it is to be treated as if it could be COVID related since Colden allergy and flu symptoms mimic, um, are so similar to the ones who have COVID. So we're protocols in place for that.

Speaker 7: 38:55 And it's individually assessed and determined to varying degrees. And then there are extensive policies for, uh, absences to occur until symptoms are gone. And it's for a length of time, which will add to the economic, um, impact. Did they, the deficit of it, because then in turn, you don't have a child that's returning after two or three days, 72 hour period. You're having children that are out for 10 to 14 days at a time, very health wise. I get that right. But add into the overall detriment of the industry. A couple of people have asked similar questions about how would you, or how are you going to handle the regular flu cold season where, you know, kids might have runny noses, um, day to day basis. I'm treating it as if it could be COBIT and, and, and that's just the protocol. That is what the County guidelines are. That is what we have to do. It's a different time, it's a different climate and, you know, preschool Cody's in and cold and flu season timeframes are looking very different this year and we have to do it that way, you know, if I could, um, yeah,

Speaker 4: 40:11 I think, you know, in, in public health, we think about, um, uh, the things that affect people's health and, and how we need to act to keep one another healthy on kind of different levels. So there's this individual level of, is it a cough because everything's on fire? Is it a flu? Is it allergy? And, you know, the provider and the parent and the kid to a certain degree, depending on the age, um, have to make that individual call. But we also, and I think Leah has done a really beautiful job of emphasizing this over and over again, we have to think about the system that we're in and how that affects people's health. So I think I, as somebody in public health find it, um, a little bit frustrating and troubling that we have pushed all of these decisions to parents and caregivers when we have kind of systematically made the decision, um, not to prioritize, uh, reopening childcare and even K through 12 safely. So when we've made the decision that, um, gyms need to open at 10% capacity and people need to be able to drink a beer inside, um, which forces people like Holly and Randy and me into these really impossible choices. So it, um, I, I think we have to consider the fact that we're not making these choices in isolation. We're making them in a, in a policy environment and a social environment. That's forcing them to a certain extent. Thank you. Absolutely. Okay.

Speaker 3: 41:40 Um, this question is from Carrie and Holly. I think you keep pretty good tabs on this. Um, do you know how many childcare centers have been affected by COVID 19 at this point? And I guess, I don't know if she's specifically referring to San Diego County. I think the last time I checked, there were two outbreaks at preschools. The last I've heard

Speaker 4: 42:01 That was what was recently reported. Um, and one of our local news affiliates. And I think it was too, I don't have current data on that.

Speaker 3: 42:11 Yeah. I'm not privy to that kind of information. Go ahead and jump in

Speaker 5: 42:18 Statewide. Um, there have been over 20, 2300 cases, um, as of two days ago, um, the information is available on the state department, social services website by County, um, and by type of case, which I think is really helpful to see, because what we do see is, um, you know, in centers, the cases are predominantly among adults and in family childcare homes, it's among the staff, we're running the programs as well as other family members and, um, children. Now, what we don't know from the state data is how much of that is transmission happening in childcare centers, um, which makes it, it just makes it challenging. I think we're back to this earlier to understand, um, how much of that is happening elsewhere and is associated with, with somebody coming into a childcare center. But, you know, it's still really, I think, important data to have an understand that, um, it kind of moves away. I think from the idea at the very beginning of the pandemic that I know we heard a lot, which was, you know, childcare is kind of risk risk-free. And I think Rebecca, again, kind of laid this out, saying like the science is, you know, the knowledge of the sciences changing and developing, um, and what we know about infection is changing. Um, so

Speaker 4: 43:41 Yeah, and you know, I, yeah, it's such a big question of can kids transmit and I'll tell you that other people who are as smart or smarter than me have read the same data and come to different conclusions that kids don't even get sick as much as adults. Um, we have seen some data suggesting that transmission from kids to adults is a lot less likely. Um, but there's not a lot of it. And we always like to see a lot of numbers before we make claims like that. Um, and to be kind of a bummer, I'm gonna say that a lot of those, I would wonder about a lot of those numbers saying, well, we don't have a lot of diagnosed cases in kids because we do know that kids are way less likely to have symptoms, which means they're way less likely to get tested. And I also know anecdotally that some pediatricians are more or less willing to order a test for a kid. So, um, I would not be surprised if the number of actual diagnosed cases in those state databases are pretty systematically low, and, uh, such a bummer, probably the same for, for outbreak tracing.

Speaker 1: 44:53 And that concludes our special COVID-19 and the childcare crisis hosted by KPBS investigative reporter, Claire Tresor featuring dr. Lee Austin and Rebecca fielding Miller, Randy Lum, and Holly Webber, the owner and operator of magic hours children's center.

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KPBS Midday Edition

KPBS Midday Edition is a daily talk show hosted by Maureen Cavanaugh and Jade Hindmon, keeping San Diegans in the know on everything from politics to the arts.